Since I recently talked about skin cancer, I thought I should elaborate on the topic a little more, especially prevention. There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about the sun and sunscreen.
When I recommend people to limit sun exposure, I don’t mean to completely avoid it. I recommend protecting yourself from getting too much sun and especially to avoid letting your skin burn. The ideal amount is about 20 minutes every day, but not in the heat of the day (10am to 2pm) when the sun’s UV rays are strongest.
Benefits of the Sun
Why 20 minutes? This is the average amount of time in the sun that our body needs to naturally generate a sufficient amount of Vitamin D3, which has many benefits for the body physically and emotionally.
Research on Vitamin D3 has demonstrated its ability to:
…naturally fight cancer
…boost the immune system
Dangers from the Sun
While there are benefits from the sun, there are also dangers. The long term negative effects predominantly come from the ability of the sun’s UV radiation to damage cellular DNA. This leads to genetic mutation and cellular malfunction that causes premature aging, and ultimately can cause cancer. As our understanding has increased we’ve learned that we need to protect our skin from both the sun’s longer ultraviolet A (UVA) and shorter ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
The Long (UVA) and Short (UVB) of It
While UVA rays are longer and less intense than UVB, we are exposed to more throughout our lifetimes because they are equally present during all daylight hours throughout the year. UVA can also penetrate clouds and, unlike UVB, can go through glass. This is why it’s important to consider sun protection even when you’re not at the beach or pool.
It has been thought that while both play a major part in skin aging, UVB has been the main contributor to skin cancer. UVB is the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, affecting mostly the superficial layers of skin. But even though UVB has a more concentrated negative effect, UVA causes cumulative damage over years and years, which may also initiate the development of skin cancer. Most skin cancers occur in the basal layer of the epidermis and studies have shown UVA damages cells in this layer, as well.
Bottom line is that while the sun provides wonderful health benefits, we still need to take precautions to only receive its benefits and not its damaging effects. In my next blog, I’ll continue the subject and talk about how to protect yourself, including helpful clothing, sunscreen and diet tips.
If you’d like more information on rejuvenating your skin, visit www.davinciplastic.com.
Steven Davison M.D.
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon