With April wrapping up, we thought it might be a good idea to remind you about the risks of sun exposure. Everyone knows that we’re supposed to apply sunscreen during the summer and avoid sunburns, but many people don’t actually follow the advice given. That’s likely due to our culture’s perception of tan skin as healthy and attractive. However, our tendency to stay out in the sun or tan in a booth costs us more than we think. Not only can sun exposure cause skin cancer and lesions, it causes the breakdown of elastic material in the skin which keeps it firm and pliable. As we expose our skin to more and more sun radiation, the elastic becomes weaker and eventually our skin becomes saggy and less able to heal. While this damage might not appear while we’re young, it will prematurely age surface tissues before their time. Here are some other not so nice side effects from sun exposure:
Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions - due to decreases in the skin's immune function from UV exposure
- Benign tumors
- Discolored areas of the skin
- Yellow discoloration of the skin
- Dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
Sounds pretty nasty, right? Some populations are at greater risks than others, though anyone can get skin cancer. You’re especially vulnerable to the effects of UV radiation if you have:
- Fair skin
- Freckled skin
- Skin that burns easily
- Light eyes
- Blonde or red hair
As we say regularly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure to regularly wear sunblock, cover the skin with clothing and hats, and wear protective eyewear. Try to stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Although some say that tanning beds are less dangerous than genuine sunlight, they still expose the skin to radiation and should be avoided. Try a spray tan, or better yet, try eating vegetables with high levels of carotenoids! Studies show that foods high in these vitamins can change skin color to a healthy, golden hue! (Read more about that here)
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve had your share of sun exposure already. One statistic says that 80% of lifetime sun exposure happens before the age of 18, which makes it especially important to model good skin care to children. That doesn’t mean that prevention stops after you become an adult, however. It’s vital that you check yourself regularly for signs of developing skin disorders, especially cancer. Know the various spots on your body, and if something new develops, keep an eye on it for changes. Here’s what to look for:
- Basal cell Carcinoma: Small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump(s) on the face, ears or neck, or as a flat pink, red or brown spot on the trunk or arms and legs.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: A firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly flat lesion.
- Melanoma: Of the three cancers, melanoma is the most deadly. Look for a pigmented patch or bump but keep in mind it can also be red or white. Melanoma sometimes looks like a normal mole, but with a few key differences. Keep in mind ABCDE when examining moles:
- Asymmetry - the shape of one half doesn't match the other
- Border - edges are ragged or blurred
- Color - uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
- Diameter - A significant change in size (greater than 6mm)- although any mole that begins enlarging should be brought to the attention of your dermatologist. Many melanomas are being diagnosed at much smaller diameters.
- Evolving - any new spot of mole changing in color, shape or size
While trading in your bikini for sunscreen (and possibly more fruits and vegetables) might not sound like a summer dream, it’s a more responsible decision by far. Take care of your skin, and you’ll be thankful later! As always, feel free to ask the staff at Evans Chiropractic any questions, or leave a comment below!