Risks of Sun Exposure
Can you really get cancer from the sun?
YES! Ultraviolet (also known as UV) rays from the sun damage the DNA in our skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.
What kind of skin cancer does it cause?
The most serious and deadly kind of skin cancer is called melanoma, which is now one of the most common cancers in people aged 15 to 29 years old. UV exposure and sunburns (particularly sunburns during childhood) increase your risk of getting melanoma, but not all melanomas are caused only by the sun – our genes and general health can play a role too.
Damage from UV rays can also lead to non-melanoma skin cancers, which are less deadly than melanomas. These are called basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.
What other damage can the sun cause?
Painful sunburns, premature aging of the skin such as early wrinkles, leathery skin, age spots (also known as liver spots), thick dark skin growths, and thin papery skin, among other things.
UV radiation can also increase the likelihood of getting certain types of cataracts, which is when the lenses of your eyes get cloudy and make it hard to see. This is why sunglasses are important too!
I don’t want to get skin cancer or early wrinkles! How can I protect myself?
• WEAR SUNSCREEN! Sunscreen acts as a filter to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. It is recommended to use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and to apply it to any part of your skin that is exposed.
• Stay in the shade.
• Protect your skin with clothing, especially sun-protective clothes labeled with a “UV protection factor (UPF)” value, which is a special coating that helps absorb UV rays.
• Be extra careful between 10 am and 4 pm in the summer, because this is when UV rays are strongest.
• Wear a hat!
• Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.
• Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps! Tanning beds give off harmful UV rays, just like the sun does.
If you have any questions about the risks of sun exposure or any moles or spots you are concerned about, please reach out to your medical provider! They would be happy to help.