Sun vs. Skin: What You Need to Know

Sun ProtectionWhen it comes to our love affair with the sun, there’s a disconnect between what we say and what we do.

Sixty-six percent of Americans surveyed said they know that sun exposure increases the risk for cancer. Yet less than 50 percent said they use sunscreen to reduce that risk.

Besides causing skin cancer, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light—either from the sun or tanning beds—causes skin changes that make us look older as we age.

How Sunlight Ages Skin
The sun’s toll on your skin includes:

  • Wrinkles. Loss of elasticity from sun exposure can make your skin sag and wrinkle.
  • Dry skin, especially on the lower legs, elbows, and forearms.
  • Age spots. These harmless flat, brown spots bigger than freckles often mar the face, hands, arms, back, and feet.

A Trio of Cancers
Of course, skin cancer is the greatest threat posed by sun exposure. The most common type of cancer in the U.S., skin cancer includes:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Seeing the Light
To reduce your risk for skin cancer and to keep your skin looking younger, you should: 

  • Cover all exposed skin with a liberal amount of a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. “Broad-spectrum” guards against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply about every two hours, even if it’s cloudy, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
  • Seek shade when you should. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Protect children by making sure they play in the shade, use protective clothing, and apply sunscreen.
  • If you see anything on your skin changing, growing, or bleeding, see a dermatologist.

Protect the Skin You’re In
Most skin cancers are curable when they’re detected early. Do a self-exam once a month; if you notice anything that doesn’t look right, contact a dermatologist. To learn more about our comprehensive care services, visit: