Prescott, Arizona (PRWEB) June 11, 2013
Sunburns are a preventable, yet all too common problem. When sunburn occurs, the skin turns red and is painful for several days. In severe cases, the skin may itch, develop a rash, peel, and this may be associated with fever or flu-like symptoms. Until now, there has been little information on how the sun’s energy produces these changes.
New research has discovered that ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation causes damage to the cell’s genetic material, RNA. The symptoms associated with sunburn are the result of inflammation. Inflammation can be beneficial for several reasons; for example, it helps removed sun-zapped cells so the skin can heal. The inflammatory response may also help to clear out cells with genetic damage before they become cancerous.
Because the RNA becomes damaged by UVB radiation, premature aging in skin can result. Signs of premature aging can include age spots, rough and scaly skin, wrinkles and skin cancer. “To prevent these issues, it’s important to use common sense when outdoors,” remarks Robin Fleck, M.D., founder and medical director of Southwest Skin and Cancer Institute in Prescott, Arizona. “While it is true that some sun exposure provides needed Vitamin D, one should temper their sun exposure based on their skin type, health history and the time of day.”
Skin type determines a person’s likelihood of developing sunburn. People with fair or freckled skin, blond or red hair, with blue or green eyes have a greater incidence of sunburn and a greater risk of developing premature aging and skin cancer. In contrast, those with darker skin and hair color are less likely to develop sunburn. Age affects how the skin reacts to the sun: children and adults older than 60 are more sensitive to sunlight and therefore more likely to develop sunburn.
Sun protection still remains an important step to prevent sunburns. Despite the alleged benefits of SPF sunscreen, there is no proof that sunscreen protects against skin cancer. The truth is that SPF sunscreen blocks only UVB, not UVA radiation. Both types of radiation actually cause skin cancer, while UVA also damages collagen and blood vessels deeper in the skin. In fact, use of sunblock provides a false sense of security since sunburn is blocked and without this early warning sign of too much sun exposure, people spend more time exposed to the other damaging radiation, UVA.
Dr. Fleck recommends the following advice to avoid sunburn while outdoors this summer:
- If you are fair-skinned or have blue or green eyes, spend less time in the sun. A good rule of thumb is to check your skin for redness every 5 minutes while in the sun. At the first sign of reddening, cover-ups should be worn.
- Wear loose-fitting long sleeves and pants to cover any sun exposed areas and a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face, ears and top of the head from UV exposure.
- Hair is a good sunscreen so wear hair down over the ears, neck, and forehead rather than pull it back or cut it short.
- If exposed to reflective surfaces such as sand or water, additional topical sunscreens should be applied. Topical Vitamin C and Vitamin E serums can be used in place of sunscreen as they have been shown to effectively block UVA and UVB light.
- Avoiding the sun between 10 AM and 3 PM when the sun is highest in the sky will decrease the incidence of being sunburned. Clouds do not block UV radiation and this type of radiation cannot be felt as heat.
- Higher altitudes predispose to sunburn due to more UV radiation reaching the earth in those locales.
- UV radiation penetrates glass, so while driving, cover up exposed areas of skin to avoid sunburn through car windows. An inexpensive window film can be installed on car windows to block most UV radiation.
- If you have already had skin cancer, your likelihood of developing additional skin cancers is increased, so avoiding unnecessary UV exposure can help lower your risk of developing new skin cancers.
Cosmetic dermatologist, Robin Fleck, M.D., is a double board certified dermatologist and internist, recognized by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is founder and Medical Director of Southwest Skin and Cancer Institute and Body Oasis Laser Aesthetics http://www.rejuvadoc.com. Dr. Fleck is a fellow of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery and the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Fleck is also the director of Vein Specialties in Prescott, Arizona and is a member of the American Venous Forum.