The dark side of the sun

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Sunshine is usually correlated with happiness, beautiful beaches, picnics at the park and overall “perfect days.” What tends to diminish the happy thoughts is the irreversible damage frequent unprotected sun exposure causes to the body.

According to SkinCancer.org, sun damage is caused by frequent exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays are undetectable radiation emitted by the sun. UVA and UVB are the two primary types of UV rays.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and play a large role in early aging and several forms of skin cancer. UVB rays primarily penetrate the surface of the skin and are a key source of sunburn in all degrees.

Skin is penetrated by UV rays often when it is least expected. Walking outside on a cloudy day, sitting in the shade, driving in the car or even sitting by the window are all forms of secondary UV exposure.

Although a golden tan may seem beautiful, according to WebMD.com, it is actually a sign of damage to the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. To prevent this degree of sun damage, use at least SPF 30 when spending a long time in the sun.

A first degree sunburn is more severe damage from the sun’s UV rays. They are typically red, hot to the touch, mildly painful and only affect the top layer of the skin. The signs usually appears hours after sun exposure and may take weeks to fade.

Sun exposure also causes early aging. More than 80 percent of early wrinkles and skin aging is caused by the amount of sun exposure the body received before the age of 18. This happens because UV rays damage fibers in the skin called elastin. The breaking of these fibers causes the skin to sag and stretch.

Irregular pigmentation and coloring are also effects of frequent sun exposure. This permanent damage to blood vessels cause areas of the skin to look dark, light and, in some cases, red.

Age spots are a great example of irregular pigmentation. These gray or brown spots are usually found on the face, hands and chest. Contrary to the name, age spots are actually cause by sun exposure, although they do tend to multiply as age progresses.

Many precancerous conditions develop from overexposure to UV rays. Any irregular, discolored or scaly spots, bumps or sores on your body are always something you should monitor and consult with your doctor. Identifying and treating these signs of potential precancerous conditions can save you from extreme health issues that may otherwise follow.

When these warning signs are not spotted or treated, they are oftentimes known for forming into serious diseases like melanoma. Melanoma is the most serious and potentially deadly type of skin cancer that in many cases is linked with overexposure to harsh UV rays. It can be spotted by a change in a mole or pigmented area of the body. A mole may be cancerous if it changes in size, shape, color, has irregular edges, is asymmetrical, itches or bleeds.

Although small amounts of sun exposure is fine, it is important to be cautious. UV rays emitted from the sun are commonly the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. so it is important to be extremely cautious about sun exposure during this time period. Protect your skin with at least SPF 30, find as much shade as possible and wear bright or dark-colored lustrous clothes that will reflect UV rays.

Sunshine can definitely bring about a beautiful happy day but remember its damaging effects and protect yourself.

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