UV Awareness Month is a great time to remind the public that the sun is the root cause of most skin cancers and to stress the importance of taking precautions.
UV light, or ultraviolet light, is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by the sun and artificial sources like tanning beds and UV lamps. It is divided into three categories based on wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
UVB and UVC are mostly absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, while UVA reaches the Earth’s surface. Short-term effects of UV exposure include sunburn and tanning. Long-term effects include premature aging, skin cancer, eye damage and weakening of the immune system.
To protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation, it is important to take preventive measures year-round. Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. John Phillips recommends following three simple steps while outdoors:
Seek shade during peak sunlight hours (normally 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Wear sun-protective clothing including eye protection and a wide-brimmed hat.
Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
It’s important to cover up as much of your skin as possible when spending time outdoors. However, not all clothing is created equal when it comes to sun protection, as some garments provide better UV protection than others. The key is to look for dense fabrics and dark or bright colors and pair those with the appropriate accessories. If you’re at the beach or pool, keep in mind that dry clothing offers more sun protection than wet clothing. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
Sunglasses are an important part of your sun-protective wardrobe. When purchasing sunglasses, always look for lenses that offer UV protection. Lenses that appear dark do not necessarily offer UV protection, so make sure to read the label before purchasing. In addition, large-framed or wraparound sunglasses offer more sun protection than aviators, for example, so be sure to consider that when selecting your sunglasses.
Think head (hat) to toe (shoe) protection. A hat is a simple and effective way to cover up your face and neck. When selecting a hat, choose one that has a wide brim, which will protect your ears, as well as your head and neck. Avoid baseball hats or straw hats with holes, as these are not as effective in protecting you outdoors. If wearing shoes, select shoes that cover your feet from the sun. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops or going barefoot, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.
In addition to wearing sun-protective clothing, it’s important to seek shade and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. When selecting your sunscreen, it’s important to choose one with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher; broad-spectrum protection (UVA/UVB) and water resistance. These sunscreens can protect your skin from the sun’s UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays, which help prevent:
* Skin cancer, including melanoma, the most-serious skin cancer * Precancerous skin growths that can turn into skin cancer * Signs of premature skin aging like age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin * Sunburn * Melasma * Dark spots on your skin that can appear when acne, psoriasis, or another condition clears
It’s important to know that no sunscreen can filter out 100% of the sun’s UVB rays. The SPF number on sunscreen tells us how much UVB light (the burning rays) a sunscreen can filter out. As an example, SPF 15 blocks 93% of the sun’s UVB rays and SPF 30 blocks 97%. “That is why my colleagues and I recommend using an SPF of 30 or higher,” said Dr. Phillips of Dermatology Specialists of Florida.
Sunburns and tanning beds can increase the risk of skin cancer through the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin. UV radiation is a known carcinogen and a leading cause of skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB rays can damage the DNA of skin cells, leading to mutations that can result in the development of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. “Five or more sunburns more than doubles your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer,” comments certified physician assistant Lauren Hagen.
Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can accelerate the aging process of the skin. It leads to the development of fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. “I, personally, use a tinted sunscreen every day so that I get light makeup coverage, UV protection, and anti-aging benefits all in one step”, explained PA Hagen. “That’s what works for me. I encourage my patients to find and use a sunscreen that works best for them.”
It’s recommended that you see a dermatologist at least once per year for a professional skin cancer screening. You can schedule with Dr. Phillips or Lauren Hagen in our Navarre office by calling (850) 932-1455 or visiting MyDermSpecialists.com.