The sun can do a lot of good. It regulates sleep cycles, stimulates the body’s production of vitamin D, and enhances feelings of well-being. But there’s also a downside: Exposure to sun can lead to wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer.
In fact, sunshine is considered the single biggest cause of visible aging. But you don’t have to succumb to the damaging rays. Even if you haven’t been sun savvy in the past, it’s never too late to start protecting your skin, says Darrell S. Rigel, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. Here are a few important skin care tips for sun protection. But the most important thing you can do is shield your skin from the sun. As long as you use sunscreen, take advantage of shade, and wear the right clothing, you can enjoy your favorite outdoor activities without worrying about the damaging rays.
Every time the sun strikes your skin, the skin produces pigment that scatters and absorbs the rays. The resulting tan means your skin is defending itself from harmful radiation.
But a tan can do only so much. Over time, the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation in sunshine can weaken the lower layer of skin, known as the dermis, and promote wrinkles, brown spots, and the development of skin cancer.
The most common (and least aggressive) form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. It begins in the top layer of skin, the epidermis, and generally doesn’t spread any further. While another form, squamous cell carcinoma, often remains at its original site, it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can be cured if detected early. However, melanoma, a cancer that starts in the skin’s pigment cells and readily spreads to other organs, can be deadly. It causes 75% of all
deaths from skin cancer.
There’s no way to accurately predict whose skin is most likely to show premature signs of aging or who is more likely to develop skin cancer, says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, associate professor of dermatology at St. Louis University School of Medicine. You should schedule a skin exam with your dermatologist at least once a year after the age of 40.
Until tomorrow: Living well is the best revenge.
Dorothy Prats / [email protected]