Summer skin danger by MD Thordis Berger
There are two main types of damaging ultraviolet (UV) sunlight: UVA and UVB.
UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, damaging the middle layer (known as the dermis) that contains elastic tissues that keep the skin stretchy. The result? All of the effects associated with the aging process... and that includes wrinkles.
UVB rays are absorbed by the top layer of skin, known as the epidermis. This results in the desired sun tanning - but the not-so-good burning. Both UVA and UVB rays increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Getting a sunburn is therefore a warning sign that you are putting yourself at risk.
There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Most skin cancers are non-melanoma; 75% of those are basal cell carcinomas (BCC) related to sunburn.
Mild and uncomplicated cases of sunburn usually result in minor skin redness and pain - even these mild cases should be taken seriously. If this happens to you, it’s best to cover up and get out of the sun immediately. If necessary, cool the burn with cold compresses. Initially, the skin turns red about 2 to 6 hours after exposure and feels irritated - you’ll see the peak effects at 12 to 24 hours.
More severe cases can result in severe skin burning and blistering, massive fluid loss (dehydration), electrolyte imbalance, and possibly infection. If a large portion of your body is severely blistered or you have fever or confusion seek medical attention. Blisters should not be scratched or popped as this can lead to infection. Signs of infection include red streaks or pus.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin for suspicious changes can also help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages.
For this reason, even if you have carefully practiced sun safety all summer, it’s important to continue being vigilant. Once a month, you should examine your skin head to toe (don't forget your back). Look for new moles and any signs of suspicious growths or any other significant changes. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don't heal should be further investigated by your doctor.
The first signs of skin cancer can appear as one or more atypical moles, hence why it’s crucial to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body.
For prevention and early detection, get familiarised with the ABCDE signs of skin cancer. If you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.