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Warmer weather is finally upon us and if you are like me, this is a very welcome sight given the winter we have endured here and throughout the country. As the calendar moves toward the warmer months, many of us begin to plan all of the outdoor activities that we enjoy — fishing, swimming, ball games, etc. Please remember that with the warmer weather and great sunshine comes the need to protect our skin.
As I have mentioned before, I spent many years in Syracuse, New York, a city where the sun goes into hiding during most of the winter. “Prolonged” exposure to the sun in that area of the country was defined as a few months. Here, sunshine is ever present, but becomes much stronger as we enter the summer months. This is why understanding the potential risk of overexposure to the sun can help ensure a longer and healthier life.
Sunlight is made up of two types of ultraviolet radiation known as UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays have the ability to penetrate deep into skin and permanently damage your skin. These rays are not absorbed by the ozone and the vast majority of skin aging is caused by these rays. The visible impact of these damaging rays are evident in anyone who has spent several years in the sun, especially women as they seem to show the effects in their face more than men.
UVB rays penetrate the skin less, resulting in superficial damage such as sunburns. And sunburns can be severe enough to cause blistering of the skin, which is actually a second degree burn, much like the burn that can result from boiling water. Additionally, both UVA and UVB rays can cause wrinkles and spots, immune system suppression and eye damage.
To protect yourself, wear clothing that blocks out light, which will prevent these rays from getting to your skin. Wear a hat and be sure to wear sunglasses when in the sun. Sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays will help protect your eyes from developing cataracts. Most importantly, use sunscreen that has an SPF rating of 30 or better. You may tan less, but your skin will thank you as you grow older.
The spring and summer season is a glorious time of year that can be enjoyed by all. As you do, please protect yourself from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. You will live longer and look better.
Dr. Ron Stahl is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.
Skin Cancer Screenings
Wilson Medical Center is offering free skin cancer screenings at its booth during Relay for Life on May 18 at the Wilson Medical Center walking track. Appointments are not needed. Come by between 5 – 7 p.m. and Dr. Emil Cekada will be provide this free screening.