Have Fun in the Sun - But Donít Get Burned
Basking on a beach in the hot sun can be soothing, but donít overdo it: Exposure to sunlight generates vitamin D, but too much sunshine can cause premature wrinkling, cataracts, age spots, and skin cancer. Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, a dermatologist, recently called our nationís increasing number of skin cancer cases a ďmajor public health problem that requires immediate action.Ē Skin cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US with more new cases than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Nearly 5 million people are treated for it annually, at a cost of $81 billion. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetimes. Nearly 9,000 Americans die annually from the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma; thatís more than one death every hour. Of the seven most common cancers in the US itís the only one whose incidence is increasing. Dr. Lushniak emphasized that skin cancer has tripled in the last 30 years. Most of these cases are preventable. Hereís a guide to handling summer sunshine and minimizing its risks:
Both ultraviolet A (long-wave) and UVB (short wave) rays damage the skin. UVA rays make up 95 percent of the UV light that reaches us. The radiation is less intense than UVB but touches us with about the same intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year. These waves penetrate clouds, glass and skin into the skinís lower layer, the dermis. UVA is the primary tanning ray. The environmental protection agency estimates that 90 percent of the skin changes associated with aging are caused by long-time exposure to UVA rays. UVA attacks the fibers in the skin called elastin so that the skin starts to sag and gradually stops snapping back into place after stretching.
UVB is the more dominant cause of sunburn. This ray has a hard time getting through glass and affects the top layer of skin, the epidermis. UVB peaks in late spring through early fall in the US between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight savings time. UVB rays can still burn in winter, especially when reflected from snow and ice at high-altitude, so skiers beware.
Sunburns are typically first degree burns with redness and heat to the touch. For relief, adults can turn to 400 milligrams of Ibuprofen, every 6 hours for the first 24 hours to reduce inflammation and pain. Aloe Vera and cold compresses are good topical remedies. In severe cases, sunburns can become second degree burns with attendant blistering. Never break the blisters because the recovery, usually within a couple of weeks, will take longer. A person who has had five sunburns or more doubles his risk for developing melanoma. Just one occurrence of second degree sunburn also doubles the risk of contracting melanoma. As UCLA Medical School Professor Nicholas Lowe, M.D. notes in the anti-aging documentary, "Reverse Aging Now," "We have known for years that sunlight affected the skin. Relatively recently have we learned how much sun damaged it."
The Victorian ideal of pale-skinned beauty was elitist but healthy. Back then, tanned skin was considered vulgar because it was a sign that people had to earn a living by working outside. Although in the 20th century a tan was be thought to be the sign of robust health, in the 21st century weíve come to realize that a tan is a sign of skin damage, the bodyís attempt to inure itself to invasive radiation by increasing melanin production, the bodyís pigment. In general, the darker a person is, the more UV radiation his skin can sustain without damage, which is why evolution favored darker humans in the tropics. Those with lighter skin found more inviting locales the further away they moved from the equator because in those climes, people needed to generate enough Vitamin D through their skin in the high UV exposure months to get them through long winters. Today the fairer skinned you are, the more your skin needs UV protection. Nearly half of all fair-skinned people who live to 65 are projected to develop at least one skin cancer during the course of their lives.
There are several ways to limit sun damage:
The first is curtailing sun exposure when it is at its most intense between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. DST. If you’re heading to the beach, bring an umbrella or sun shade. Ubiquitous in the 1960s, they practically disappeared in the 1980s but are gradually making a comeback.
The second is wearing sun protective clothing, including wide brimmed hats to shield one’s face. Straw hats with holes that let the sunlight through are less effective than tightly woven hats especially those made of canvas. Choose shirts and pants designed to keep out UV rays. Coolibar, Solartex and Solumbra make clothing with weaves that protect against the sun’s rays. The average cotton T-shirt shirt only protects as much as a single application of the lowest-rated sunblock. Wear sunglasses with full UVA and UVB protection to help prevent cataracts.
The third is picking the right sunblock, a decision that can open a kettle of confusion. All sun blocks today are labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF) that measures how effective they are against UVB, the burning rays. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, an SPF of 15 means that a sun burn would now take 150 minutes. Unfortunately the increase in SPF is not linear. A sunblock of SPF 30 isn't twice as strong as SPF 15 which filters out 93 percent of UVB. SPF 30 sunblocks filter out 97 percent of UVB. There are minimal differences between the highest SPFs. SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. One other point to note: there is no rating system that measures a sunblock’s effectiveness at blocking UVA, so when it comes to UVA protection, you need to pay attention to the ingredients.
Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection for both UVB and UVA. There are two ways to block the sun, with physical and chemical barriers. Physical barriers are among the most effective. They include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Chemical ingredients to look for include cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) and newly-approved ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).
Avoid sunblocks with retinyl palminate, a form of Vitamin A that has been linked to skin cancer in mice exposed to UV. Oxybenzone's safety is being debated: The American Academy of Dermatology says it’s non-toxic while the Environmental Working Group links it to hormone disruption and potential cell damage.
Remember that if you plan to swim or exercise outside, it’s worth picking up a sunblock that is resistant to water and sweat. Check your sunblock’s expiration date. Sunblock stays good for about three years, although the ingredients break down faster if the sunblock has been stored in high temperatures as in a car.
Don’t skimp when applying sunblock. Several studies have shown that many people simply don’t use enough. If you are using a spray instead of a lotion, take care to coat evenly. Lotions offer better protection. Use at least a couple of tablespoons of sun screen about 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun to give time for the chemicals to work in. Remember to cover all exposed skin including your feet, the back of your legs and bald spot, if you have one. Lips can also be burned so use UV resistant lip balm, Be sure to reapply every 2 hours, more frequently if you’re perspiring or swimming. Remember to apply sunblock whenever you linger outside. On a gray day, up to 80 percent of ultraviolet radiation still reaches earth.
Warning signs of skin cancer:
Survival rates for skin cancer have improved of late, but the secret is catching it early enough before the tumors metastasize, spreading to other organs like lymph nodes. Skin cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Check exposed areas of your skin periodically for irregularities like moles, scaly patches or lesions. Pay attention to any birthmarks. Note any areas that are changing in shape or texture. Is the mole asymmetrical? Is the border irregular or jagged? Is the color uneven? Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea? Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months? Pay attention to any spots or sores that burn itch or hurt. If an open sore doesnít heal within three weeks, see your physician. Make sure that your doctor gives your skin a complete exam during your annual physical.
Again, remember that most sun damage, including cancer, is preventable, so take the protective steps outlined here and enjoy the summer sun!
Reverse Aging Now, the anti-aging DVD is great for summer and the rebirth it brings us. In Reverse Aging Now, inspirational seniors and America's top anti-aging doctors and scientists show how you can take charge of how you age. Pick up your own copy of the award winning anti-aging documentary , ďReverse Aging Now." Each has a 100+ page interactive longevity workbook on the DVD so viewers can track their own progress.
The latest version also contains a TV interview with the producers about how they applied the precepts they learned to live better and younger. Plus there are free bonus videos on "Superfoods," "Superdrinks," "Saving your Face," "Exercise Basics," and "Seeing without Glasses." Preview the anti aging documentary here. At ReverseAging.TV Get 2 1/3 hours of material for only $19.95!To see how one baby boomer is applying anti-aging precepts to his own life, go to Anti-Aging Diary.com. To embrace anti-aging you need to make a mental as well as physical journey. It's not always easy, but well worth the effort. Remember to watch our anti-aging documentary, “Reverse Aging Now.
Reverse Aging News ©2014 Checkmate Pictures
- Paul M. J. Suchecki, Editor
You got this newsletter because you expressed an interest in anti-aging. Please pass it along to your friends and relatives. To unsubscribe from this newsletter send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If your email address is about to change, or you've been forwarded this newsletter and want to subscribe, please write us with your new address and "subscribe" in the subject line. Skin diagram courtesy Wikimedia commons; all other photos by Paul M. J. Suchecki.