The Truth About Sun Damage
We have all heard that too much sun exposure can lead to negative effects, including premature aging and skin cancer. But why?While UVB radiation can help the skin produce vitamin D, which plays a role in muscle health and bone formation, it can also can wreak havoc on the skin. We absorb UV radiation from the sun, tanning booths, some incandescent lighting and a few types of lasers. It can even be used as treatment in certain conditions, such as psoriasis and rickets.
Types of Ultraviolet Rays
UVA: This type of ultraviolet light contributes to skin cancer and the wrinkles associated with premature aging. These rays have the longest wavelength, which is why they affect the deeper layers of the skin.
UVB: The primary source of sunburn, UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA rays and burn the epidermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin.
UVC: This type of radiation is blocked by the ozone layer and therefore does not reach the surface of the earth. These waves are created by artificial activity, such as industrial processes.
UV rays from the sun cause wrinkles, sun spots, and weaken the elasticity of your skin. Essentially, the sun wears out your skin quicker than it would normally take. Studies have found that 80-90% of how young or old you appear is due to sun exposure. Sun exposure affects 5 parts of the skin, the epidermis, dermis, the blood vessels, sevaceous gland, and melanocytes. Furthermore, sun damage never fully disappears. Heavy sun exposure in youth may not show signs of damage until you get older, even if you lowered your sun exposure. The effects can appear 20-30 years after the initial damage takes place. Signs of premature aging from sun damage include:
- Baggy skin
- Thinner skin, showing blood vessels under the surface
- Liver spots
- Dry, ‘leathery’ appearance
Too much sun exposure can damage the DNA inside your skin cells. This damage can lead to skin cancer. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Most often, skin cancer develops on the face, lips, ears, chest, neck, arms, and hands, as these areas are most exposed to the sun. It can appear as small growths, sometimes mistaken for moles. There are several types of skin cancer, including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal call carcinoma, and actinic keratoses. If a physician thinks changes in your skin are likely to be cancerous, they may perform a biopsy for testing. Treatment options are available, including surgery and radiation.