Many of us know that we should wear sunscreen on a daily basis, even when it’s cloudy outside, but when pressed for time we often run out of the house without slathering on any sun protection. Whether this common practice results in a sunburn or a mild tan, the sun exposure can lead to DNA damage to the skin cells that accumulates over time.
With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, vow to adopt healthier habits and apply sunscreen daily. As a recent Stanford Community Newsletter article explains, doing so will protect your skin from premature aging, painful sunburns and skin cancer:
Summer brings more intense sunshine and with it the need to pay special attention to the skin, especially among children and teens. Research shows that periods of severe sun exposure or sunburn—especially during childhood—increases the chances of developing skin cancer.
“When you get sporadic but intense ultraviolet radiation exposure, it causes an insult to skin cells’ DNA, which is believed to initiate the malignant changes that can lead to skin cancer, including melanoma,” said Susan Swetter, MD, a professor of dermatology at Stanford and director of the Stanford Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Program. “Once those DNA mutations occur, your cells are more susceptible to damage from ultraviolet light. This damage accumulates over your lifetime.”
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources (i.e., tanning beds) is responsible for sunburn, accelerated aging of the skin (called photoaging) and skin cancer. Approximately 95 percent of UV radiation is composed of UVA-type rays, which are strong all day and all year long. The other 5 percent are UVB rays, which penetrate the skin less deeply but are 400 times more intense in the summer and at midday between 10 am and 4 pm. UVB rays play a key role in sunburn and skin cancer.
Previously: How ultraviolet radiation changes the protective functions of human skin, More evidence on the link between indoor tanning and cancers, Working to prevent melanoma and California cities score below 50th percentile on ‘sun-smart’ survey
Photo by bark