East Coast residents are no strangers to winter weather, and those long, chilly months tend to make time under the summer sun that much more appealing. But there’s a catch – too much exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can take a serious toll on skin health.
How Does UV Light Affect Your Skin?
The majority of solar radiation is made up of visible and infrared light, making it relatively harmless. However, solar radiation also contains a small fraction of UV radiation that poses a risk to humans. In fact, the American Cancer Society says that 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to UV radiation. But how exactly does this radiation lead to cancer?
When exposed for extended periods of time, the DNA in your skin cells can become damaged by UV rays, leading to genetic mutations. Once these defects occur, they can cause malignant tumors that spread throughout the body.
How to Protect Yourself from UV Radiation
The adverse effects of UV radiation might make you think twice about enjoying the summer weather, but with a bit of caution, you can keep yourself safe when venturing outside. Next time you’re packing for a beach escape or a backyard barbecue, follow these recommendations from our dermatologic oncologists:
- Wear reliable sunscreen. For serious protection, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. A higher number means better defense against harmful UV rays.
- Wear brightly colored clothing. Darker colors absorb sunlight, therefore delivering more UV rays to your skin. Brighter colors, on the other hand, help reflect light away from your body.
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses. Exposure to UV rays has been linked to eye damage. Fortunately, wearing sunglasses with UV protection offers a reliable measure of defense.
- Consider cosmetics with SPF properties. Sun-protective cosmetics aren’t a substitute for sunscreen. However, they can offer a bit of extra protection.
- Time your sun exposure carefully. UV rays peak between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and are strongest during spring and summer. Risk of UV damage also increases as you travel toward the equator and move to higher altitudes. If you’re planning to spend time in a high-risk environment, be sure to pay special attention to the steps outlined above.
Reach Out to RCCA
If you believe you may be at risk for skin cancer, consult with your primary doctor. Upon a positive diagnosis, seek a referral for a dermatologist or a dermatological oncologist. Seasoned dermatological experts, like Aileen L. Chen, MD and Charanjeev Kapoor, MD, will be able to develop a treatment plan that addresses your unique situation.
For more information on the dermatological oncology services RCCA can provide, contact us today.