The Sun is our greatest ally, but also an enemy. Exposure to the sun’s rays over decades can cause not only damaged, old-looking skin, but cancer. Dr. Mark S. Elliott of Meridian, Mississippi discusses the dangers of long-term skin exposure and how you can protect yourself from both skin cancer and damaged skin.
A Tan Today isn’t Worth the Long Lasting Damage
One thing is for certain: everyone needs to wear sunscreen when going exposed outside for long periods of time. “If I notice sun damage in a patient, even if I’m seeing them for a different reason, I try to educate them on how to avoid it,” says Dr. Elliott. “I try to explain that even if they think that being tan is good, extended skin exposure to the sun’s rays will slowly damage their skin, sometimes to the point of skin cancer.” As a society, being tan has been declared to be a good thing, when really it is fundamentally the skin attempting to protect itself from harmful UV rays. These rays come from the sun (even on cloudy days) and can also be found in tanning beds. “You know, teenagers and people in their 20’s and even 30’s don’t seem to care what they will look like in 20 years,” says Elliott. “As a 45 year old, I can promise that you will care! If you take care of your skin now, you will age more gracefully.”
The risks go way beyond the appearance of your skin
It used to be thought that melanoma, the most dangerous of skin cancers, was predominantly formed only from intense sunburns. However, new research shows that even simple exposure over a long period of time can instigate the deadly cancer. “Chronic unprotected exposure to the sun has the same risks as intense burns that occur less frequently,” says Elliott. “The sun does provide beneficial things, such as the production of vitamin D, but this can be accomplished in the time it takes to walk from your car into your home. Again, the bottom line is to protect yourself every time you’re going to be outside for extended amounts of time.”
How can I keep my skin looking young as I age? PROTECT IT FROM THE SUN!
Constant exposure of your hands, face, ears and arms will slowly change and distort the skin in these areas, resulting in a much older skin appearance than your age may tell. Anyone who has a boat or goes to the lake/beach, hiking, running, swimming, etc… all of these activities involve lengthy periods of time under the sun. “Wearing hats, clothing and, of course, sunscreen will protect you from cancer and help your skin to look great as you age,” says Elliott. “Consider the effects a tan may have on you later in life and protect your skin!”