Summer is finally here, and it is also UV Safety Month. Massena Memorial Hospital’s Facial Plastic Surgeon Henri P. Gaboriau, MD, FACS, provides various health services, including skin cancer screenings, mole examinations and biopsies, and sun damage treatment. He wants to remind community members of how they can protect themselves and their loved ones from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Ultraviolet radiation is a type of light which is emitted by the sun and tanning beds. Two types of UV rays are UVA and UVB. UVB rays cause damage to the outer layer of the skin, which leads to sunburns and contributes to the development of skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper under the skin than UVB rays, causing aging, wrinkling, and intensifying the damaging effects of UVB rays.
Dr. Gaboriau stated, “Exposure to UV rays can cause several types of skin cancer, including Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and the deadliest, Melanoma. Many people also do not realize that exposure to UV rays greatly increases the rate at which their skin ages.” Cataracts and other eye problems can also affect people who do not wear protective eyewear when spending time in the sun.
UV rays can cause a number of health problems because there is only so much Melanin in a person’s skin, which is a chemical that absorbs UV rays. Therefore, it is necessary for people to take other precautions. One of the main ways people can protect themselves from UV radiation is by wearing sunscreen. Many people likely already do this when spending time outdoors, but it is important to use a sunscreen with a high skin protectant factor (SPF) and the proper amount.
The SPF of sunscreen tells how well the substance protects a person’s skin. Sunscreens with SPF 30 and up do a good job of preventing the absorption of UV radiation and block 97 percent or more of UVB rays. These are the types of sunscreen you should use. Dr. Gaboriau said, “Sunscreens with SPF 30 should be worn daily even if you are only outdoors for a few minutes. If you plan to spend time in the sun, you should be wearing sunscreen with SPF 50, which offers more protection. Also be sure to check that your sunscreen has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.” The SPF does not indicate that the sunscreen protects against UVA rays, so you should also always look for the phrases “broad-spectrum protection” and “water resistant” or “waterproof” as well.
To ensure optimal protection of your skin from the sun, it is important to know how to properly apply sunscreen. Guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology state that anyone over six months of age should use at least an ounce of sunscreen and apply it to all exposed areas roughly 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. Sunscreen should then be reapplied every two hours. A person can also shield their eyes and face from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat.
Although the sun promotes Vitamin D production and everyone needs some time outdoors, it is important to limit your sun exposure to prevent skin damage and other health problems caused by UV radiation. UV rays are typically strongest between 10 am to 4 pm, and you should always seek shade periodically to avoid prolonged exposure. The light bulbs in tanning beds also radiate UV rays, which is why people should stay away from these beds and advise their children to do the same. Long-term tanning bed usage can be just as dangerous as spending too much time in the sun. “There have been instances where individuals in their early 20s have been diagnosed with Melanoma as a result of using tanning beds,” said Dr. Gaboriau.
For more information about sun safety and the dangers of UV radiation, please visit the following links from the hospital’s health library: http://massenahospital.staywellsolutionsonline.com/Search/85,P01359, http://massenahospital.staywellsolutionsonline.com/Search/85,P01351