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The Truth About Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declare clearly that most skin cancers result from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. While sunlight has health benefits, your risk of skin cancers skyrockets without protection from UV.

Skin cancers are by far the most common form of cancer in the United States. Most skin cancers develop slowly; when caught early, they’re often easy to treat. However, other types of the disease emerge quickly while progressing fast and spreading easily. Because of this, you should never ignore an unusual skin blemish or mole. 

Dr. Clement Banda and his team at MD Vein & Skin Specialists focus on skin cancer and mole mapping to track the health of your skin over time. Catching changes is the best way to identify precancerous and cancerous skin lesions, leading to safe treatment. When you understand the truth about sun exposure and skin cancer, you’re in a better position to lower your risk. 

The nature of ultraviolet light

There’s something about a glowing, tanned complexion that looks inherently healthy. Perhaps it’s an instinctive reaction that evolved when the ozone layer better protected our ancestors from UV exposure. Human activity contributed to thinning this important light-filtering component of our atmosphere. 

That means we receive more of these damaging rays than our ancestors did. Though the wavelength of UV light is too short for us to see, it’s powerful enough to penetrate the skin, causing the breakdown of elastin, the component that gives skin its flexibility. It causes clumps of dark skin pigment called sunspots or liver spots. Even that healthy-looking tan is a damage-control reaction. 

Cumulative effects

It’s estimated that 80% of your exposure to sunlight happens before you’re 18 years old. Every hour spent in the sun and every tan or sunburn you receive adds up over the course of a lifetime. Without UV light protection, your skin suffers wear and tear. This doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to develop cancerous skin conditions, but your risk increases with every additional hour of exposure. 

Protecting yourself

The simple truth about sun exposure and skin cancer is that reducing exposure makes you less likely to develop skin cancer. Consider these strategies: 

Avoidance

Track the levels of UV light in your area and stay out of the sun when levels are highest. Typically, peak UV exposure happens between 10a.m. and 2p.m., so whenever possible, stay inside through this midday period. 

Sunscreen

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 anytime you’ll be outdoors. Know when your product needs reapplication and follow this faithfully. Make sunscreen a habit. 

Clothing, hats, and sunglasses

Dressing for success is a familiar concept, and it applies to skin cancer prevention, too. Long-sleeved shirts combined with long pants or skirts form a physical barrier that reduces UV exposure. Wide-brimmed hats shield your face, and UV-rated sunglasses reduce your risk of developing cataracts. 

Regular skin cancer screening with MD Vein & Skin Specialists will help you catch those incidents of skin cancer that start without sun exposure or lesions that sneak past your own screening. Call or click to schedule an appointment today.

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