Sunday, May 6, 2012

Summer Skin Care

"I wanna soak up the sun". May is skin cancer awareness month. Those hot days of summer are nearly upon us. We look forward to vacations at the beach, swimming, sailing and being outdoors after being couped up inside during those cold winter months. Unfortunately the sun can damage our skins.Today's health and beauty buzz is on the detrimental consequences of UV damage.

Gone are those days when I used to lie on a tin roof with school friends anointed in baby oil, baking in the hot African sun. I cringe to think of the damage we were doing to our skins, but I did it despite my mother's warnings!
UV rays are linked to 90% of skin cancers. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US.  It is also the most preventable. 1 million cases are diagnosed annually.  UV rays are responsible for 65% of melanomas. Melanoma is the 2nd most common cancer in women ages 20 to 29 and is the  deadliest form of skin cancer. One person in the US dies from melanoma every hour according to the skin cancer foundation.
 Early detection is essential with a 99% chance of beating the cancer if detected and treated early.

What to do to help prevent skin cancer:-
  1. Use a broad spectrum sun screen of at least SPF 30 every single day.
  2. Do not rely on your foundation having a sun screen. You need additional protection.
  3. Put on sun screen 30 minutes prior to going out and reapply every 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Use UPF infused protective clothing if outside for long periods.
  5. Wear a hat.
  6. Protect the backs of your hands. Many people who work outside with their hands forget to do this.
  7. Protect your lips- use a lip balm with an SPF.
  8. Look carefully for these tell tale signs.
    You may have a cancerous lesion.
  9. Self examine your body every 6 months. Get someone to check out areas that are difficult for you to see yourself. Look for any growths that have changed in shape, color or size and anything that bleeds or is itchy.
  10. Go to a dermatologist to be checked yearly or more often if at high risk.
  11.  Avoid the sun between 10am and 4 pm which is the hottest time of the day.
  12. Wear sun glasses to protect eyes from UV rays.
The dangers of tanning beds:-
The risk of developing melanoma is 75% greater for people who used tanning beds in their teens.These machines are extremely dangerous because they emit UV rays which are less likely to burn, but penetrate deeply. You get the damage without realizing it. No one under the age of 18 is permitted to use a tanning bed in the majority of states in the US without permission from a parent or guardian. Pending legislation is underway to mandate all tanning salons to post skin cancer warnings on their sun beds.

New Jersey Mom arrested
for child endangerment after
 she allegedly took her 5 year old
child into a tanning booth.
Tanning addiction
Tanning addiction like any other addiction is real. People addicted to tanning beds are often also addicted to drugs and alcohol as well as being prone to anxiety. They seek out tanning beds to make themselves feel better.
Teens are anxious to be tanned for prom night and lazy days socializing on the beach and at the pool. Unfortunately teens and young adults often think that they are invincible and immortal. 

Brief and intense tanning increases ones chances of getting melanoma. Even one serious burn in childhood can increase the DNA damage which may lead to skin cancer.

Products that increase sun sensitivity:
There are many products that increase sensitivity to the sun making the skin vulnerable.These are a few of them.
  • Alpha hydroxy acid used for skin exfoliation.
    Use a sun screen of at least SPF 30
    or higher. Reapply every 2 - 3 hours
    even if it says" water and sweat resistant".
  • Lactic Acid- a form of alpha hydroxy acid.
  • Licorice extract- a form of alpha hydroxy acid.
  • Chemical skin peelings and dermabrasion.
  • Pigment creams and skin lighteners.
  • Kojic acid- chemical to lighten and bleach the skin.
  • Accutane used to treat acne.
  • Benzoyl peroxide creams used in preparations to treat acne.
  • Salicylic acid- used in peeling and in acne preparations This is a beta hydroxy acid.
  • Retinol- vitamin A used for anti aging makes skin more susceptible to sun exposure.
  • Vitamin C- used effectively as an antioxidant for skin aging.
Most of these products are excellent for the treatment of aging, sun damaged, pigmented and acne prone skins but they do make the skin more susceptible to the sun. Vigilant sun precaution is needed to prevent UV damage. If you are unable to stay out of the sun, perhaps discontinue their use until the winter.

Drugs that can cause sun sensitivity:
  • Antibiotics
  • anti depressants
  • birth control pills
  • Hormones
Does skin color make a difference?
Cells in the epidermis called the melanocytes produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that determines our eye and skin color. The more pigment produced, the darker the skin tone.
Melanin helps to protect the skin from the effects of the sun. It is the damage to the skin cells that starts this process. The cells release chemicals alerting the body of trauma and these chemicals then cause melancocytes to produce more melanin. Hence the more exposure to the sun, the darker the skin will become.
Caucasians are the primary victims of skin cancer but people from all ethnic groups may develop skin cancer.

Risk factors for developing skin cancer:-
  • Fair skin that burns easily.
  • Blond and red haired individuals.
  • Blue, green or grey eyed people.
  • Excessive sun exposure during the childhood and teenage years.
  • Family history of skin cancer.
  • People who have numerous moles.
Skin Ageing
External factors such as exposure to the sun along with internal factors (genetics) are responsible for the way our skin ages. Most premature aging is caused by sun exposure. Just minutes of exposure a day added up over the years can cause changes to the skin. UV exposure damages the collagen and elastin fibres in the skin. The skin is unable to repair itself resulting in loose, wrinkled and damaged skin.

Some changes seen in the skin due to sun damage are:-
  • Rough and leathery skin:- UV exposure can cause the skin both to thicken and thin.Thickened skin resulting in deep coarse wrinkles.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles:-thinning of the skin causing fine wrinkles, bruising and skin tearing in skin layers. 
  • Spider veins on the nose and cheeks:- damage to the tiny blood vessels.
  • Pigmentation:- external factors as well as hormonal changes.
  • Freckles:- a freckle is caused by an uneven distribution of melanin in the skin.
  • Age spots:- are a type of freckle and not age related but sun damage related. By age 60, 90% of people will have age spots.
  • White spots:- often seen on the legs- caused when the melanocyte is destroyed.
  • Seborrheic Keratosis-(raised, brownish, wart like crusty lesions)- benign. There are other lesions that may be pre malignant.  Your dermatologist can advise you.
Vitamin D
Despite the importance of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, UV radiation is a known carcinogen and exposure should be limited. Vitamin D has many important roles vital to good health (covered in a future blog), but is naturally present in very few foods. Natural vitamin D can be found in the flesh of fatty fish such as salmon,mackerel and tuna as well as in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Many foods in the US are fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, yogurt, margarine, baby formula and cereals. The recommended daily allowance is 600 IU (15mcg) for both men and women - ages 1 year to 70 years.
Vitamin D like anything, should be taken in moderation. Consult with your doctor or child's pediatrician prior to taking any supplements or administering them to a child.

Tip of the day:
Take care of your skin. Prevention is better than cure. The damage you do to your skin at 20, will determine what you will look like at 40. More than 80% of skin aging in adults are the results of tanning prior to age 18.

The only "safe tan" is a "fake tan". Get a professional spray tan prior to a special event or experiment with the numerous brands of self tanners now available.

Get sufficient vitamin D daily.

Have a peaceful and relaxing summer.
Stay happy, healthy and safe.

*Remember to consult with your doctor prior to using any medication or supplements.

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