Updated: Mar 27, 2021
Fun in the sun is the number one goal for summer time, but the unfortunate side effects from sun exposure can damper those summer vibes!
1) Skin Cancer: Each year, more new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. than new cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. One American dies from skin cancer every hour. Unprotected exposure to UV radiation is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. UV exposure and sunburns, particularly during childhood, are risk factors for melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer. Not all melanomas are exclusively sun-related—other possible influences include genetic factors and immune system deficiencies.
2) Premature skin aging and skin damage: Other UV-related skin disorders include actinic keratoses and premature aging of the skin. Actinic keratoses are skin growths that occur on body areas exposed to the sun. The face, hands, forearms, and the “V” of the neck are especially susceptible to this type of lesion. Although premalignant, actinic keratoses are a risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma. Look for raised, reddish, rough-textured growths and seek prompt medical attention if you discover them.
Chronic exposure to the sun also causes premature aging, which over time can make the skin become thick, wrinkled, and leathery.
3) Cataracts and other eye damage: Research has shown that UV radiation increases the likelihood of certain cataracts. Although curable with modern eye surgery, cataracts diminish the eyesight of millions of Americans and cost billions of dollars in medical care each year.
Other kinds of eye damage include pterygium (tissue growth that can block vision), skin cancer around the eyes, and degeneration of the macula (the part of the retina where visual perception is most acute). All of these problems can be lessened with proper eye protection. Look for sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses if you wear them, that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection.
4) Immune Suppression: Scientists have found that overexposure to UV radiation may suppress proper functioning of the body’s immune system and the skin’s natural defenses. For example, the skin normally mounts a defense against foreign invaders such as cancers and infections. But overexposure to UV radiation can weaken the immune system, reducing the skin’s ability to protect against these invaders!
For detailed information about skin cancer go to skincancer.org
SUNBURN PREVENTION (it's easy, I promise, and you can be out in the sun!)
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations to help protect yourself and your family.
You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.
For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 BEFORE you go outside (at least 10 minutes before sun exposure), even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.
How sunscreen works. Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.
SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH- REAPPLY, REAPPLY, REAPPLY! Set a timer if you have to, just don't forget the sunscreen!
Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Cosmetics. Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don't use them by themselves.
Check out my pediatric section for recommendations on sunscreen in children 6 months of age and older!
If you are pregnant, check out my pregnancy section in regards to sun exposure!
So all of this talk about sunscreen reminds me of Baz Luhrmann's advice to the Class of 1999!
If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
Sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience...."
I promise, this does not just "apply" to the Class of 1999 :-)
So you didn't take any of mine or Baz's advice above, now you have a nasty sunburn..... keep reading...
Sunburn is not immediately apparent. Symptoms usually start about 4 hours after sun exposure, worsen in 24–36 hours, and resolve in 3–5 days. They include red, tender and swollen skin, blistering, headache, fever, nausea, and fatigue. In addition to the skin, eyes can become sunburned. Sunburned eyes become red, dry, painful, and feel gritty. Chronic eye exposure can cause permanent damage, including blindness.
Take acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache, and fever.
Drink plenty of water to help replace fluid losses.
Comfort burns with cool baths or the gentle application of cool wet cloths.
Avoid further exposure until the burn has resolved.
Use of a topical moisturizing cream, aloe, or 1% hydrocortisone cream may provide additional relief.
If blistering occurs:
Lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection.
Do not break blisters. (This slows healing and increases risk of infection.)
When the blisters break and the skin peels, dried skin fragments may be removed and an antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream may be applied.
Seek medical attention if any of the following occur:
Severe sunburns covering more than 15% of the body
High fever (>101 °F)
Extreme pain that persists for longer than 48 hours
OTC Options to help heal sunburn:
1) Aloe gel
2) Aloe lotion
3) Drink water
4) Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
5) Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
6) Hydrocortisone cream 1% (Cortizone)
7) Epsom Salt (Sitz Bath)
Click here to see buying options for all items listed above!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, your time is valuable and important.
References: https://medlineplus.gov/sunexposure.html skincancer.org