By Ashraf M. Hassanein, MD, Ph D –
Who thinks about sun protection in the cooler winter months? Sunlight, specifically UV radiation, is the Number #1 cause of skin cancer as well as unsightly wrinkles, age spots, thinning, more fragile skin.
In short, excessive sun exposure is the main culprit for premature aging of the skin. The thermometer isn’t reaching 90, making it easier to forget about the dangers of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The winter months are not the time, in fact there is never a good time, to let down your guard against premature aging and skin cancer.
Sun exposure dries out skin and reduces its ability to hold moisture. The resulting lines and wrinkles sharpen the appearance of aging. And the cute, charming freckles that the sun brings out in childhood, morph into the brown spots and discoloration that plague us as we get older.
With your sun safety in mind, here are 4 things to keep in mind about fall/winter sun protection:
1. UVA radiation is still high and doing damage – UVB radiation decreases during the winter months but dangerous UVA radiation is still in full force. Both UVA and UVB contribute to skin cancer however UVA is thought to play a more dramatic role in premature aging.
2. Sun damage is cumulative – Many people do not realize that the worst areas for skin cancer and premature aging are those areas exposed to the sun throughout the year, not just in the summertime. Small doses of ultraviolet light that never cause overt skin damage, over the years, causes a permanent collagen damage and deposits of fine elastic fibers called “solar elastosis”. The result is premature aging.
3. Cooler weather does not offer much protection – Up to 80% of UV radiation can penetrate this deceptive cover and harm your skin.
4. Medications can mean unexpected sun sensitivity – Protecting your skin from the sun’s rays is always important, but it becomes even more so when your medication causes photosensitivity. Hundreds of medications, (including everyday antibiotics, hormones and diuretics) may cause you to be extra sensitive to the sun.
So what’s a body to do?
To better protect your face, choose a sun hat that has a brim, preferably a three-inch wide brim, or greater, depending on the outdoor activity you are doing. Remember UV radiation can also be reflected up or scattered from a surface such as water or sand. It is extremely important to protect yourself from these reflective sun rays which are almost as dangerous as direct rays. To combat reflective rays, wear a thick coat of broad spectrum sunscreen reapplied throughout the day.
A quality broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against the UVA as well as the UVB rays of the sun. It is important to make sure your skin is protected from both these rays in order to prevent damage and skin cancer.
The worst type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma, which only accounts for approximately 4% of all skin cancer but accounts for about 79% of skin cancer deaths. Skin cancer claims the lives of approximately 8,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Don’t become a skin cancer statistic this winter.
If you have questions about how to protect your skin from sun damage, or if you have already developed dark spots from years of sun exposure and would like recommendations on how to treat or remove them, please call Dr. Hassanein at 352-430-2580 (The Villages) or 352-241-6111 (Clermont) today to schedule a consultation. Dr. Hassanein performs a skin check as part of all routine examinations and he has extensive experience removing moles and dark age spots. Call today for a consultation about having that unsightly, and potentially harmful dark spot removed.
You don’t have to stay inside, get out and enjoy the sunny Florida winter, just please be conscious of how much time you do spend in the sun and always, always wear sunscreen.
The Village: 352-430-2580