Love the Sun-Love Your Skin
Monday, Jun 25, 2012
The hot summer sun arrived on the first day of summer in 2012. Did you dig out your swimsuit and hit the beach? Do you just love soaking up the sun rays in the summer and tanning your skin?
Have you reach a responsible age when you are starting to be concerned about all the accumulated sun damage and sunburns you have had since you were young?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five people in the United States will develop skin cancer at some time in their lives. There are three types of skin cancers: squamous cell cancer, basal cell cancer, and malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma accounts for 75% of skin cancer deaths and occurs in the pigment-producing cells of the skin or in moles. These cancer cells reproduce uncontrollably and invade distant body sites.
Your risk of developing a skin cancer depends primarily on your genetic makeup and your sun exposure. If your genes have given you red hair, fair skin, and blue eyes, and if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with melanoma, then you are at high risk. The more sun exposure in your life, especially repeated and blistering sunburns, the higher your overall risk.
Fortunately, the skin is a very accessible organ. You can look at your skin every day unlike internal organs, and can observe any abnormal skin growth before it becomes too advanced. Of course, this accessibility also means your skin is vulnerable to damage from exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation. That is why it is so important to adopt good sun-protection habits and to keep an eye out for suspicious skin blemishes.
If you are at risk or have noticed unusual skin blemishes, you should consult with your physician and possibly be seen by a dermatologist.
Even if you have had a history of too much sun exposure, starting to adopt good sun habits prevents accumulation of additional damage that could contribute to the overall risk for melanoma.
Recommended healthy sun habits are:
- Avoid prolonged unprotected sun exposure between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear a hat with a brim that covers the ears and shades the nose.
- Always use sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 45. Apply it at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two to three hours, and every hour if you are in the water or sweating heavily.
- If it is comfortable, wear long sleeves and pants.
Maine summers are too short and we know that the sun provides needed vitamin D, but precautions are in order so we may enjoy the sun and not risk dangerous skin cancer. So, put on a hat, rub on the sunscreen, and enjoy the beautiful Maine beaches.