Many people love the warm sun. Sun rays can contribute to our good mood, and, in the short term, can contribute to our good appearance. But this love is not a two-way street: the sun exposure causes most of the wrinkles and senile spots on our face. Know: a woman of 40 years old, who protects her skin from exposure to the sun, can have a skin of 30 years!
We often associate shining skin with good health, but the color of the skin, resulting from exposure to the sun – or in the solarium – actually enhances the effects of aging and increases the risk of skin cancer.
The sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we take for the natural aging process. Over time, ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun damage the skin fibers called elastin. If these fibers are damaged, the skin begins to sag, stretch and loses its ability to restore the original shape after stretching. The skin is easier to form bruises and lesions – which last longer heal. And although sun damage to the skin can be invisible at a young age, it will definitely manifest later.
How does the sun change the condition of the Skin?
The exposure to the sun causes:
- Precancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions – caused by loss of skin by its immune function
- Benign tumors
- Small and large wrinkles
- Changed the color of the skin, under the name spotted pigmentation;
- Yellow – yellow skin color;
- Teleangiectasia is an enlargement of small blood vessels under the skin;
- Elastosis – the destruction of elastic tissue, which causes the appearance of wrinkles.
What causes Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, and the number of cases continues to increase. This is an uncontrolled growth of atypical skin cells. Such rapid growth leads to the formation of tumors that are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the least serious types, and account for 95% of all cancers. They are classified as non-melanoma types of cancer, and with timely treatment, the percentage of recovery is high. Melanoma caused by atypical skin pigment cells called melanocytes is the most serious form of skin cancer, and leads to death in 75% of cases. If the disease is not treated, it can spread to other organs, and it is difficult to control.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer, but UV light in solariums is also harmful. The exposure to sunlight during the winter months exposes you to the same degree of risk as in the summer.
Cumulative sun exposure is basically cancer of basal and squamous cells, and severe sunburns, usually before the age of 18 can become a cause of melanoma in later life. Other, less common causes include repeated exposure to X-rays and the occupational impact of certain chemicals.
Who is at risk for Skin Cancer?
While skin cancer can occur in anyone, are most at risk are people who have fair skin or who has freckles on the skin, such as the skin burns more easily, as well as those with light eyes, blond or red hair. Black people are also susceptible to all types of skin cancer, although this risk is significantly lower.
In addition to skin color, other risk factors are skin cancer in a family or personal history, working outdoors and living in hot climates. Severe burns in the past and an abundance of large and irregular forms of moles are risk factors inherent exclusively to melanoma.
What are the symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The most common sign of skin cancer is skin changes, usually the appearance of new moles or skin lesions, or changes in existing moles.
Basal cell carcinoma can manifest itself in the form of small, smooth, pearly or wax bulges on the face, ears and neck; or flat, pink / red – or brown – lesions on the trunk or arms and legs.
Squamous cell carcinoma may occur in the form of solid, red nodules or stiff, lamellar, planar damage which may itch, bleed and crust. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma mainly occurs in the area of the skin, which is often exposed to the sun, but may also occur elsewhere.
Melanoma usually manifests itself in the form of a pigmented spot or tubercle, which in appearance may resemble a common birthmark, which has an irregular shape and contours.
When looking for signs of melanoma, the following symptoms will help you:
- Asymmetry – the shape of one half does not match the shape of the other
- Borders – edges are uneven or fuzzy
- Color – uneven coloring in brown, black, reddish, red, white or blue
- Diameter is a significant change in size (more than 6 mm)
How is Skin Cancer diagnosed?
Skin cancer is diagnosed only by results of a biopsy. This process involves taking a tissue sample that is placed under a microscope and examined by a dermatologist or a doctor who specializes in skin cells. Sometimes with biopsy, all cancers can be removed, and subsequent treatment is not required.
How is Skin Cancer treated?
Treatment of skin cancer is individual, and is determined by the type of skin cancer, the size of the lesion, its location and the patient’s preferences.
The standard treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers (basal and flat cell carcinoma) includes:
- Moss surgery (for non-melanoma types of high-risk skin cancer) – excision of cancerous and some part of additional tissue
- Electro-drying and scraping – physical scraping of skin cancer cells after electrosurgery
- Cryosurgery or freezing
- Laser Therapy
- Preparations (chemotherapy, retinoids)
The standard treatment for melanoma includes:
- Extensive surgical excision
- Definition of the signaling lymph node (for deeper lesions) – to determine if melanoma spread to local lymph nodes
- Preparations (chemotherapy, biological reaction modifiers)
- Radiation therapy
- New methods of clinical research are sometimes used to treat skin cancer.
How to prevent Skin Cancer?
Nothing can completely prevent sun damage to the skin, although sometimes the skin can repair itself. Therefore, it’s never too late to start protecting your skin from the sun. Your skin undergoes changes with age – for example, you sweat less and the skin needs more time to heal, but you can delay these changes, trying to avoid exposure to the sun. The following tips will help prevent skin cancer:
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more, 30 minutes before exposure to the sun’s skin, and then, every few hours.
- Choose cosmetic products and contact lenses that provide protection from UV.
- Wear sunglasses with absolute UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure, as much as possible, during the strongest UV radiation, between 10 and 15 hours.
- Regularly conduct a skin examination yourself to know about existing formations and notice any changes or lesions.
Eighty percent of the solar exposure received by a person during life occurs at the age of 18 years. As a parent, be a good example to your children and educate them about the habit of preventing skin cancer.