Time spent in the sun can be good for you: you get vitamin D from being in the sun which is good for your bones; you might sleep better as your internal body clock adjusts; it might ward off depression and improve your mood. Despite these benefits, you also need to be smart about protecting your skin when exposed to the sun’s rays.
While sunburns hurt, the real concern from sun damage is melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin malignancies. Melanoma is often triggered by intense, intermittent sun exposure. The American Cancer Society estimates about 76,830 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2016 and over 10,000 people in the United States will die of melanoma this year.
The risk for melanoma increases with age and the average age for diagnosis is 63. Melanoma is not the only type of skin cancer, but it is more dangerous because it is likely to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. UV rays can also damage the eyes.
A sunburn, or just repeated exposure to the sun, can prematurely age the skin. UV rays can damage your cells and you likely won’t feel anything more than the warmth of the sun.
Be Sun Smart
At any age, take the following steps to reduce your risk:
- Avoid excessive sun exposure during peak times, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Opt for sun-protective clothing with long sleeves and/or built-in UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat.
- Use sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher and remember to reapply.
- Schedule a professional skin exam annual and do personal checks for irregularities.
To learn more about sun safety and melanoma, visit the American Cancer Society website. Enjoy the great outdoors when the weather is suitable, but take necessary precautions to prevent harmful sun damage.