Enjoy the Sunshine, but be Kind to your Skin

With the coming of Summer, we can’t help but want to get outside to enjoy the feel of sunshine on skin…however we need to be mindful of the damage that can be done while enjoying this simple pleasure. Over half of all new cancers in the United States are skin cancers.  In fact, cancers affecting the skin are so prevalent and increasing in number so rapidly that the American Academy of Dermatology has labeled skin cancer an unrecognized epidemic.

Your risk of developing skin cancer increases as you age because of the accumulating effects of sun damage over time.  Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common….they are usually slow growing and highly treatable.  Melanoma, on the other hand, tends to be more serious, with the greatest likelihood of spreading (metastasizing) to other body tissues.

Skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation that occurs in the first two decades of life may not become apparent until midlife or later.  Typically, 90 percent of non-melanoma cancers develop on sun-exposed skin, like the head and neck. It’s also possible to get skin cancers on any other part of the body that you might not expect are exposed to sunlight. 

There are three UV wavelength bands-UVA, UVB, and UVC.  Ozone in the earth’s atmosphere filters out much if not all UVC radiation, but ozone depletion may be a factor in allowing more UVA and UVB rays to reach earth. The altitude here in Jackson Hole also puts us at higher risk for increased exposure.  UVB is known to cause changes in cell DNA and UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, weakening skin’s immune system, and setting the stage for cancer development.

Take deliberate steps to protect your skin!  Follow the basics: Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out, even on cloudy days. Use a generous amount of sunscreen, 1 ounce, or about the amount in a shot glass. To maximize sun protection, reapply every two hours. Heavy perspiration, water and towel drying can remove the protective sunscreen layer, even from waterproof products.  Wear protective clothing, a broad brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Limit your time in the sun, between 10am and 4pm and seek shade whenever possible.

Finally, no one is as familiar with your skin as you are.  Check your skin regularly for any changes, as early detection is key.  Enjoy the sunshine and be safe!

-From your friends at the Senior Center of Jackson Hole! 

The health articles in this newsletter are intended for information only. They should not be considered as medical advice about your personal health. This should be obtained directly from your doctor.