The Risks of Sun Exposure

The sun is the worst enemy of the skin. Following are some of the negative effects of sun exposure:

• Skin cancer
• Photoaging (deep wrinkling, brown spots and loss of elasticity)
• Spotting and freckling
• Burning and thickening
• Photoreactions to some foods, drugs and cosmetics
• Aggravation of fever blisters and other skin conditions
• Weakening of the immune system

Sunscreen moisturizes, protects, and helps skin remain soft and supple. More importantly, sunscreen protects your skin from he damage effects of sun exposure.

The Effects of Sunburn

A sunburn is usually a very permanent form of skin damage. There is increasing evidence that severe sunburns early in life tend to predispose a person to malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. In spite of the risks, people continue to “cultivate” tans. Most of the problems associated with sun exposure don’t show up until age 40 or 50, and until that time, people don’t really believe they’ve been doing anything wrong.

Compounding the Risk

Who should use sun protection products? Everyone! Especially children (consult with a pediatrician before using sunscreen products on children under six months of age); persons with blonde or red hair (natural color); person of Irish, Welsh or Scottish descent; fair-skinned people who may freckle easily; those who live in the Sun Belt; people who are exposed to the sun for occupational or recreational purposes; and people with a family history of skin cancer. If any of these descriptions apply to you, be particularly careful about exposing your skin to the sun.

Besides heredity and time spent in the sun, there are other factors which increase the risk of sun exposure. These include:

Time of year. Sun exposure reaches a danger peak in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 for UVB rays. You may think more about the danger in August when temperatures top 100 degrees, but remember – you’re feeling the heat rays then, not ultraviolet. The danger of skin damage actually begins building in early April.
Altitude. High altitudes increase the risk of sun exposure because the atmosphere is thinner. Consider this if you live in or are traveling to the mountains or other high-altitude locales.
Latitude. The closer you live to the equator, the more UVB rays your skin is exposed to. For example, moving south from Chicago to Dallas doubles the amount of UVB rays hitting your skin.
Time of day. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. true sun time (11 a.m. and 3 p.m. daylight savings time) is the most dangerous period for sun exposure.
Medication. Many medications can interact with sunlight to cause photoreactions or increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. If you are currently using medications, consult your doctor about increased sun sensitivity.
Environment. Reflections off of ice, snow, water or cement can increase your exposure to ultraviolet rays by as much as 90 percent. Consider this if you are planning activities such as skiing, boating or walking in the city.

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