Skin is the largest organ of our body that protects us from sunlight, heat, infection, and injury. It also helps to regulate the body temperature and protects us from various microbes. Sun makes our day bright and our soul happy. But are you aware that too much exposure to the sun can result in severe consequences like skin cancer? Exposure to sunlight helps our body to make vitamin D, which is known as the sunshine vitamin. Sunburn can put us to a risk of developing skin cancer.
Sun exposure and skin cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent types of cancer that affects millions of people across the globe. As the ozone layer is getting depleted, the incidence of skin cancer occurring due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is significantly increasing over the past few years.
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. When UV radiation falls on sun-exposed areas of the skin, it can cause basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
The two types of UV radiation that contribute to the risk of developing skin cancer are:
Ultraviolet A (UVA): This type of UV rays has a longer wavelength and can pass through glass. It results in wrinkling of the skin and premature aging of skin. Although the intensity of UVA is slightly less than UVB, the UVA rays can penetrate through the skin more deeply and cause genetic damage to cells.
Ultraviolet B (UVB): This type of UV rays has a shorter wavelength, and they cannot pass through windows or any kind of glass material. UVB causes sunburn, and it is closely associated with the development of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Overexposure to UVB rays can damage the outermost layers of the skin. It results in sunburn and develops blisters in severe cases.
Unprotected or prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can damage the DNA in the skin cells, lead to genetic defects or mutations that develop skin cancer. According to research, the harmful ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun can damage the skin and alter the genes responsible for tumour suppression.
Choose your sunscreen wisely to prevent skin cancer
Sunscreens come in various formulations and are easy to use over the skin in everyday life. Sunscreens protect our skin from harmful ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. Although sunscreen helps in reducing the possibility of skin damage, it cannot completely block the UV light from reaching our skin.
Sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SFP) that determines how long it can remain effective on our skin and protect our skin from sunburn. It is recommended that people living in sun-exposed areas should apply sunscreen at least with SPF 15 every two hours. Sunscreen plays a crucial role in protecting our skin from the sun. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more can prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.
Who is at risk?
Although anyone can be at risk of getting skin cancer, the following individuals who can be at a higher risk:
• People with light coloured skin, eyes, and hair
• Individuals who spend more time in the sun and have sunburned skin
• Individuals who are above the age of 50 years
• Individuals with a family history of skin cancer
• People living in high altitudes with year-round bright sunlight
Tips and preventive measures to protect yourself from UV radiation:
The risk of developing skin cancer from UV rays can be reduced by taking some protective measures, which can safeguard against skin cancer.
• Wear sun-protective clothing that covers your hands and legs
• Limit sun exposure from 10 am to 3 pm to minimize the risk
• Reapply sunscreen for every 2 hours while in the sun
• Avoid scheduled outdoor activities when the sun’s heat is intense
• Stay away from reflective surfaces that increase the risk of sunburns
• Avoid tanning beds, sun lamps, and recreational sunbathing
• Avoid sun exposure, especially when the UV index is 10 or higher
Do not delay visiting a doctor if you observe any skin lesions, darker spots, itches or sunburns in the sun-exposed areas of your skin.
Ayu Health Hospitals offers all-inclusive fixed-price packages for various types of skin cancer. To know more, call us on +91 – 6366 100 800.
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About the Author
Dr. Shivakumar Uppala
Dr. Shivakumar Uppala is renowned as one of the best Cancer Specialist Doctors in the country, has performed more than 500 surgeries till now, and is an experienced surgical oncologist as well as a consultant. He is practicing at Ayu Health Hospital, Bangalore. He is a specialist in Surgical Oncology and MS - General Surgery Laparoscopic Surgeon.