The sun has rays which cause wrinkles and sunspots, so we should avoid getting burned as much as possible. We all listened to this speech when we were little while our moms slathered sunscreen on us, right? Well, once again, Mom was right. But do you know why?
Lets break it down, the sun produces two different types of rays: UVA and UVB. So what's the difference? Both types of rays are a form of ultraviolet electromagnetic radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is a known carcinogen, which means overexposure can lead to cancer. But how? UV exposure alters our DNA, which can affect certain genes that control how our skin cells grow and divide. If our genes are no longer working properly, the affected cells can turn cancerous. Also, as we age, collagen and elastin in our skin naturally break down. This weakening happens much faster when we are exposed to prolonged UV radiation. In fact, approximately 80-85% of our aging is caused by sun exposure.
So what's the difference between UVA and UVB? UVA rays, also known as "aging rays", penetrate the skin deep past the epidermis; causing genetic damage and cell death. UVA rays are present all year, and more prevalent that UVB rays (even on cloudy days). Did you know that most car windows block out UVB rays, but not UVA rays? This is why it is recommended that you apply an SPF of at least 30 everyday. UVB rays are they rays that cause sunburns, also known as "burning rays". Although UVB rays do not penetrate as deep as UVA rays, they are stronger and more damaging to the skin; one bad burn is all it takes to increase your chance of getting skin cancer tremendously. On a more positive note, UVB rays are what give our body supplements of vitamin D and other important minerals.
Melanin is your body's natural defense against damaging rays, but melanin can be destroyed when exposed to large and frequent does of UV rays. The best defense against these rays is constant sun protection. Wearing a daily sunscreen, and being mindful of your amount of sun exposure will decrease the chances of damaging your skin. In addition to daily sun protection, it is advised that you have a once a year check with your dermatologist to make sure that there are no suspicious lesions on your body. At-home checks are also beneficial in between doctors visits; if you ever notice a change in a mole or a suspicious mole appear, it is always smart to get in contact with your dermatologist as soon as you can to rule out any possibilities of skin cancer.
Not sure when a mole is considered "suspicious"? It's simple, just remember the ABC's:
A- Asymmetry: The two sides of the mole are not identical
B- Border: The border of the lesion is uneven and irregular
C- Color: Melanomas are typically darker and have more than one color present
D- Diameter: If the mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser, get it checked
E- Evolving: If the mole has changed within the past few months, it raises concern
We all love a nice, sunny day, but always be smart whenever you're out! You'll thank yourself when you're older ;-)