Sunshine makes me happy, are the opening words to a great song composed and performed by the late, great singer, John Denver. It sure is great to be in the sun this summer, especially after just getting through a cold, hard winter. But, as great as the Sun is for us, it can also do harm if we’re not careful. Here are some tips to keep us happy and safe in the sunshine.
Sunshine: Skin Damage
Take care not to exposed to direct sunlight for too long a time as it can put you at risk for wrinkles, age spots, scaly patches called actinic keratosis, and skin cancer.
A suntan looks great and gets you many compliments, but that golden color is due to an injury to the top layer of your skin.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays speeds up the aging of your skin and raises your risk of skin cancer. To prevent damage, use a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. Keep applying the sunscreen often when you’re out in the sun. If you don’t you are liable to get a sunburn. Your skin turns red, it feels hot to the touch, and you may have some mild pain.
It’s called a first-degree burn when it affects only the outer layer of your skin. To get some relief from pain, take aspirin or ibuprofen. Try a cold compress, or apply some moisturizing cream or aloe.
The sun’s rays can make you look old. Ultraviolet light in daylight damages the fibers in your skin called elastin and collagen. When that happens, it begins to sag and stretch. In addition, too much sun causes some areas of your skin to appear darker, while others look lighter. It can also make permanent changes in small blood vessels, which gives you a reddish look in some places.
Freckles are cute. But they can also signal danger. You get freckles on areas of your body that are exposed to the sun. You’ll notice them more in the summer, especially if you’re fair-skinned or have light or red hair.
Freckles aren’t bad for you. But some cancers in the earliest stages can look like one. See your doctor if the size, shape, or color of a spot changes, or if it itches or bleeds.
Sunshine: Age Spots
These brown or gray areas show up on your body as you get older. They come from being out in the daylight and often appear on your face, hands, and chest.
Bleaching creams, acid peels, and light treatments can make them less obvious. Check with your dermatologist to make sure they’re not something more serious, like skin cancer.
Sunshine: Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer may show up as a firm red bump, a scaly growth that bleeds or gets a crust, or a sore that doesn’t heal. It most often happens on your nose, forehead, ears, lower lip, hands, and other areas that get a lot of sun.
Squamous cell carcinoma can be cured if its treated early.
Sunshine: Bowen Disease
This is a type of skin cancer that’s on the surface of your skin. Unlike “invasive” squamous cell carcinoma, Bowen disease doesn’t spread to the inside of your body. It looks like scaly, reddish patches that may be crusted.
Sunshine: Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common form of skin cancer, and it’s the easiest to treat. It spreads slowly. The tumors can take on many forms, including a pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on the ears, neck, or face.
A tumor can also appear as a flat, scaly, flesh-colored or brown patch on your back or chest, or more rarely, a white, waxy scar.
Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but the most deadly. Possible signs include a change in the way a mole or colored area looks.
Melanoma can affect the skin only, or it may spread to organs and bones. It’s curable if treated early.
Of course, let the sunshine make you happy but as with all things, do it in moderation and protect yourself.
The best way to avoid sunburn, wrinkles, skin cancer, and other damage is to stay out of the daylight, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
If you need to be outside, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30, wear a UPF fabric hat and sunglasses, and cover up your skin with clothing.
If you see any changes to a mole or you spot a new growth or a sore that won’t heal, see your dermatologist right way.
Have a great Summer!