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Practice Sun Safety and Protect Your Skin

Wednesday September 3, 2014

As much as we enjoy the feeling of the warm sun on our skin it’s also important to protect yourself from the potential harms the sun can have on our health.

We don’t often think of our skin as a vital organ to our body, but it is and we need to protect it!

You may be thinking: ‘how can the sun affect my skin and my health?’ The truth is that the sun’s rays contain ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation can be thought of as ‘invisible’ light that we can’t see and can cause damage to our skin, such as sunburns. Sunburns are common signs of skin damage from the sun, but remember that the redness associated with a burn may not show up until three to four hours of sun exposure has occurred. With more severe sunburns, more serious signs and symptoms include blistering, changes in skin colour, pain and even signs of dehydration (fever, headache, vomiting).

What’s important to know is that increased exposure to UV radiation from the sun can increase your risk of developing skin cancer – especially if you sunburn easily, have fair skin, or have lots of moles. I should also mention that using tanning beds, where UV radiation is aimed directly onto your skin, also increases your risk of developing skin cancer. You should not use tanning beds.

Skin cancer occurs when the cells in your skin change from normal to abnormal. These cells grow faster and different than normal, healthy cells. There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that if not found early can spread to other parts of the body and can potentially cause death. It can run in families, and looks like a black mole or birthmark on your skin. Non-melanoma skin cancer usually grows slower, and can most often be found as pink, red and swollen, or peeling and crusty skin. It is most often found on your head, face, neck, back of your hands, and on your arms and legs.

Take the time to check your skin. Look for signs of melanoma using the ABCDE’s of moles.

Asymmetry: one side of the mole looks different than the other side

Border: has a jagged edge, edges are not smooth

Colour: different colours such as variations of brown, pink, red or black

Diameter: larger than the diameter of a pen

Evolution: changes shape or colour

If you have a mole that you are concerned about you should see your healthcare provider. They can look at it and determine if a test should done to make sure it’s not cancerous.

Just as I always say in my articles, the best thing that you can do to avoid cancer is to prevent it! When it comes to skin cancer, the most important thing that you can do to prevent it is to stay out of the sun, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the UV radiation is at its highest. However, if you are outside in the sun, follow some of these sun safety tips:

-Wear broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB radiation

-Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and every 2 hours thereafter (even if it’s cloudy, you should wear sunscreen)

-Wear UV protective clothing

-Wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeve shirts and pants

-Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes

-Go outside when the UV index is less than 3

If you have a question for me or a topic you’d like me to write about please email me at: Until next month, your health is in your hands.

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