Wake Forest Baptist Answers Your Burning Questions about Sun Exposure
and bathing suits coupled with clear skies and warm temperatures may seem like
a winning combination, but exposed skin can only handle so much time in the
sun. Without protection, our skin is vulnerable to the damaging effects of sun
myth that tanned skin is a sign of health,” said Amy McMichael, M.D., professor and chair
of the Department of Dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist
“The reality is, tanned skin is a sign of damaged skin cells.”
answers some of the most frequently asked questions regarding sun exposure:
the difference between UVA, UVB and UVC rays?
from the sun comes in three types, ultraviolet A (UVA), UVB and UVC rays, but
only UVA and UVB rays reach the earth’s surface. Overexposure to either UVA or
UVB radiation can increase our risk of developing skin cancer. While UVB
radiation is the primary cause of sunburn, UVA rays are sometimes referred to
as “aging rays” because they can cause skin to prematurely develop wrinkles and
age spots. Unfortunately, windows don’t provide protection from UVA rays.
kind of sunscreen is best, and how often should it be reapplied?
American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use a water-resistant
sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and broad-spectrum
protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
Make sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin at least every two hours, even
on cloudy days, and after swimming and sweating. Sunscreen has a shelf life of
three years, so check the expiration date.
it smart to get a base tan before heading to the beach to soak up the rays?
Building a base tan is not advisable. While it may help prevent sunburn, it
does not prevent skin damage.
different skin types handle the sun better than others?
number of factors contribute to a person’s sensitivity to the sun, including
skin type. Overall, people with fairer skin that burns easily are more likely
to develop sunburn and skin cancer than those with darker skin that tans
easily. However, enough sun exposure can lead to skin cancer in anyone,
regardless of skin color.
are the risk factors for skin cancer?
addition to fair skin, a history of bad sunburns and a family history of skin
cancer are a couple of the major risk factors for skin cancer. It’s important
to understand that sun damage is cumulative, so a tan or sunburn you get today
can have lasting effects.
are the early signs of skin cancer?
cancer is one of the only types of cancer that is visible. To spot it, perform
routine self-exams of your entire body. Consult a dermatologist immediately if
one of your moles or other brown spots has increased in size or changed in
color, shape or texture. Other warning signs include a spot that continually
itches, hurts, scabs or bleeds, and an open sore that has not healed within
want that bronzed glow, my best advice is to try
sunless methods such as topical creams or spray-on products,” McMichael
said. “Your skin will thank you years from now.”