The Sunburned Truth About Our Star and Its Rays

Since we’re back in summer sun time, here are a few questions from your friends at Northcoast Laser Cosmetics about the sun and its effects on our skin. Let’s see what you know.

Sunscreen acronyms

Sunscreen is full of acronyms: SPF, UVB, UVA. What do they all mean? OK, SPF is sun protection factor. An SPF of 15 means simply that with sunscreen on you can be out in the sun 15 times longer before getting burned than you would without it. UVA and UVB sound like pretty much the same thing, but they are quite different types of ultraviolet rays from the sun. Some labels say the sunscreen blocks UVB rays. Others say they are broad-based. You need a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Why? They both are beating up your skin. UVA rays penetrate the epidermis and affect the dermis beneath, causing your skin to age and creating the beginnings of skin cancer. UVB rays cause sunburn on the epidermis and also lead to topical skin cancer lesions.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer

This is true. In the U.S. over one million people each year are diagnosed with skin cancer. Probably double that or more are undiagnosed. That’s the problem. If a person blithely goes through life with progressing melanoma, but doesn’t get checked, the odds are that person won’t be going through life for long, especially if it metastasizes.

If you get skin cancer you die.

This is not even remotely true. Most skin cancers, if detected early enough, are all treatable with surgery. Squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas are far less concerning than melanoma, but all skin cancers are treatable if caught early.

Sunscreen prevents skin cancer

Nope. Sunscreen helps block the rays that lead to skin cancer, but just because you have on sunscreen doesn’t mean you can spend every waking minute in the sun without repercussions. Sun damage is cumulative. If you’ve ever received a serious sunburn, like we all did as children, then that damage comes due as an older adult. It’s estimated that every time you had a peeling, blistering sunburn as a kid (remember wearing a T-shirt the next day?) those double your chance of developing melanoma later in life.

If you have lots of moles, you have a higher risk of melanoma

This is true. People with moles, especially large ones, have a higher risk of melanoma. Those moles need to be checked constantly to see if they change shape or color.

Now you’re a sun exposure expert. Do your best to protect your skin, and when you want to reverse some of that sun damage from previous years, call us at Northcoast Laser Cosmetics, (440) NEW-FACE, and let’s talk about various non-invasive treatments to rejuvenate your skin.