Dr Ramsha Riaz - Cosmetic Dermatology Physician at Zoya Health and Wellbeing Resort
The sun's Ultraviolet (UV) rays have been very well known to have harmful effects on the skin. Even though we cannot see these dangerous rays with our naked eyes, they do breakdown the fibers that give our skin its elasticity. This leaves our skin prone to easily bruising, sagging and premature aging. The freckles and sunspots that we develop over time also increases the risk of skin cancer. Therefore, we need to be very careful and protect our skin from the sun's harmful radiation. May marks ‘Skin Cancer Awareness month' that acts as reminder to shield ourselves from the harmful sun rays. You can start doing so by following these simple six tips:
1- Seek the shade - In countries that are close to the equator, the sun rays are stronger which is why you should avoid coming in direct contact with its rays especially between 10 am and 4 pm. It is best to stay indoors during noon time as the sun rays have a shorter distance to travel from the sky to planet earth which means they are most intense.
2- Don't get sunburned – A sun burn, also commonly known as a sun tan is when the skin releases melanin (pigment) to protect itself from UV damage. Whilst the bronze color of your tan eventually fades, the damaged caused by the sun rays penetrating layers of the skin remains. A common alternative to sun rays is tanning beds. The scary truth is that these tanning beds could sometimes be even more dangerous than the sun rays. Studies have proven that using tanning beds and having an increased risk of all forms of skin cancers are linked.
3- Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen – Make it a habit to put on 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body at least 30 minutes before getting exposed to the sun. Make sure it has an SPF of at least 30 or higher. What SPF does is stop the UV rays from penetrating our epidermis, the skin's first layer, by reflecting it away from its surface. It is also safe to apply sunscreen to babies that are above 6 months old (not younger).
4- Protect your eyes – Wearing a hat or a cap is one way to keep your eyes shaded from the sun. However, there are UV-blocking sunglasses that are readily available in the market. If you suffer from myopia (nearsightedness) and have to wear prescription spectacles, then consider one with UV protection and visible light lenses. Cumulative exposure to the sun rays can have detrimental effects on the eye structure and can lead to diseases such as cataracts (clouding of the eye lens) and macular degeneration (loss of central vision).
5- Examine your skin – You can self-detect skin cancer at its early stage by regularly examining your skin. All you need is a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. Especially look for changes in patterns of any he blemishes like moles, birthmarks, or freckles. Some of the red flags you need to look for include new or expanding bumps, bloody sores that is resistant to healing, moles with irregular borders and any crusty patches.
6- See a dermatologist – Like the old saying correctly states ‘prevention is better than cure'. A dermatologist will help you take all the necessary measures to prevent skin cancer. Especially if you are at high risk of developing cancer due to compromised immune system or genetic factors, you should consider visiting a skin doctor. The treatment of melanoma is much easier when detected in its early stages.
Finally, there are many precautionary measures that you can take to protect your skin from exposure to direct UV rays. The tricky thing about sun damage is that it is not immediately noticeable. It is cumulative and will, over time, be expressed through premature aging and other dermal diseases. So, take control of your health and follow these six tips to keep skin cancer at bay.