By Kim Hilmer, F.N.P. | Family Medicine
Summer is here, and it may be tempting to park yourself in a lawn chair or tanning bed to get that sun-kissed glow. Unfortunately, if you don’t properly protect your skin, you will pay for it later with wrinkled, splotchy skin – or possibly with your life.
A tan – once considered a sign of vitality and good health – is actually the skin cell’s response to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Repeated exposure to the sun and cumulative sunburns not only contributes to premature skin aging– it can also lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually – more than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And skin cancer is on the rise, with the largest increases seen among white people and women ages 18 to 39. A recent study found that during the past 40 years, the rates of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – grew by 800 percent among women 18 to 39 and 400 percent among men.
Sunburn can happen whether you’re indoors or outside. Health experts attribute this rise to the popularity of indoor tanning. People who use indoor tanning equipment are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used a tanning bed.
Two types of UV radiation are in both the sun’s rays and artificial tanning equipment: UVB is the chief culprit behind sunburn, while UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply, are associated with wrinkling and premature aging. UVA rays also increase the cancerous properties of UVB rays, and can cause skin cancer, as well.
Types of skin cancer
Skin cancer starts as an abnormality in the skin’s inner or outer layers, resulting from sunburn, a mole, or an irregular growth. Skin cancers fall into three types: