As much as we get Vitamin D from sunlight, and our plants benefit from it, there are actually negative effects of the sun and specifically on one’s skin. Most people don’t realize how dangerous the effects of the sun on the skin are. However, these effects will depend on the level of sun exposure that you have experienced, your age, skin type and many other factors. Sun damage has been known to cause serious cosmetic changes on the skin such as premature aging, skin discoloration and wrinkles. It has also caused serious diseases and some of them are as follows:
1. Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is actually a common skin disease, it often comes as a result of skin damage from sun exposure. It is usually related to serious sunburn that occurred during childhood but it can also be caused by long–term exposure to the UV rays from the sun. Whenever one’s unprotected skin is exposed to these harmful rays, the skin’s cell structure changes. Continued exposure then leads to permanent skin damage which weakens the skin’s immune system. With a weakened skin immune system, the skin cannot identify and prevent any skin cancer cells from forming. The three common skin cancer types as a result of sun exposure are: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
2. Sun Keratoses
Sun Keratoses are skin lesions that form as a result of exposure to the sun’s dangerous UV rays. These sun spots are usually either warty or scaly in their appearance and their color can either be faint and barely noticeable or a very noticeable darkening or redness on the skin. Sun Keratoses usually affect the areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun such as the cheeks, upper lip, forehead, neck, ears and hands. Some people with this condition might experience itching or a stinging sensation whenever the affected area is exposed to the sun or scratched. Fair skinned people or people spending hours outdoors without sun protection are the most affected by this condition. Initially sun spots are harmless, but over time and when not treated, they have been known to develop into Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.
3. Eye Conditions
Spending long hours in the sun minus any eye protection may cause eye diseases as well. Conditions such as cataracts can affect anyone. Cataracts are a type of eye damage that results to lack of transparency in the eye lens causing a person to have clouding vision. Photokeratitis, commonly known as “snow blindness” is also another condition that can result from exposure to the UV radiation. Its effects may vanish after a couple of days but later in life, eye complications usually occur.
How To Prevent The Above Diseases
It is possible to enjoy the sun and avoid its negative effects by taking a few measures. Some of the things you can do to avoid them are as follows:
– Always apply sunscreen on your skin 20 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun and every 2 hours afterwards. Ensure that your sunscreen lotion has an SPF of 30 or more for adequate UVB protection.
– When going outdoors, wear clothing, cosmetic products or contact lenses that provide UV protection or sunglasses.
– You can also stay away from the sun when it is too hot for as long as you can.
– It is also important to carry out skin self-exams regularly in order to be aware of any forming or existing growths, so you can treat them in time or take the necessary measures to correct problems. With the above measures you can prevent skin cancer and other serious skin conditions from affecting your skin.
Dr. Rita V. Linkner, of Spring Street Dermatology, 73 Spring Street, Suite 303, New York City, NY 10012 agrees, stating, “Skin cancer is in fact the most common type of cancer affecting humans.” Dr. Linkner also talked about Solar Keratoses. “Solar Keratoses, also known as Actinic Keratoses, are not sun spots. These lesions are very easy to treat, the importance of finding and treating these lesions is that a small proportion of them can become Squamous Cell Carcinomas which is a type of skin cancer that is able to not only spread deeper within the skin but also metastasize to other parts of the body.” She added, “Conducting a yearly full body skin exam with a dermatologist is the best means to cure these pre-cancerous lesions.” She concludes, “SPF50 is the recommended level of sun protection that the FDA currently mandates. I like to tell patients to find a sunscreen with an SPF50 that has both UVA and UVB protection, which is known as a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen. As for higher SPFs like SPF90 or SPF100, oftentimes patients will have issues rubbing these thicker formulations in and will use less and less of the product, making them more susceptible to sunburn so an SPF50 is right where people should be seeking out protection.”
Dr. Linkner can be reached by phone at (212) 431-4749 for more information.
Melissa K. Levin, MD, FAAD, also of Spring Street Dermatology, 73 Spring Street, Suite 303, New York City, NY 10012 agreed with Dr. Linkner, briefly stating that, “Skin cancer is by far the most prevalent cancer in the United States.” She added, “The single biggest risk factor for most skin cancers is sun exposure, which causes approximately 90% of skin cancers. I would stress to say that sun exposure is not the risk factor of all skin cancers, but most skin cancers are linked to sun exposure and immunosuppression.” She went on to stress that skin cancers that are detected early are 98% to 100% curable. Therefore, an annual skin check with a dermatologist is incredibly important. She concludes by mentioning how sunlight affects the eyes too, stating how UV light can penetrate through the eyelid and can generate non-melanoma skin cancers underneath. “Melanoma can also start in a part of the eye, called the uvea. I like to emphasize the importance of wearing broad-spectrum UV protective sunglasses,” Dr. Levin added.