UV Health: Protecting Yourself From the Oklahoma Sun - 405 Magazine

UV Health: Protecting Yourself From the Oklahoma Sun

Summer is here, and with it comes hours of glorious sunshine every day. Oklahomans love to be outside — and from zoo days to lake trips, we tend to catch some serious rays.

It is common knowledge that sunburns can lead to skin cancers like melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. What you may not know is that the sun produces powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause serious and irreversible damage — all year long.

Physician Assistant Kaitlyn White of Dermatology and Aesthetics of Oklahoma said that “UV damage can occur without visible signs of sunburn. Typically, UVA rays primarily contribute to premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkles and age spots, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and are more closely linked to the development of skin cancer.”

She continued, “Risk factors for skin cancer include excessive sun exposure, indoor tanning, fair skin, a history of sunburns, a family history of skin cancer and having many moles or atypical moles. To reduce the risk of skin cancer, it is important to practice sun safety measures; these include wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, reapplying every 80 minutes or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Also, seek shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.); wear protective (UPF) clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses; and avoid tanning beds. Regular skin self-exams and annual skin checks by a dermatologist are crucial for early detection of skin cancer.”

White finds that patients most commonly complain of skin conditions actinic purpura and actinic keratoses, which are a direct result of UV damage.

Actinic purpura, also known as solar purpura or senile purpura, is characterized by purple or red-brown bruises on the skin, typically on areas that have been chronically sun-exposed such as the arms, hands, face and neck. Actinic purpura can then lead to skin tears, where even minor trauma or friction, such as bumping into objects or scratching the skin, can cause the skin to tear easily.

Actinic keratoses (AKs) are precancerous skin lesions that typically appear as rough, scaly patches, also found on chronically sun-exposed areas of the skin. AKs are considered precursors to squamous cell carcinoma and are recommended to be treated when present, although treatment options can be very painful and unsightly for patients.

Unfortunately, these issues cannot be reversed once they begin. Many patients express regret that they used tanning beds or that they did not protect their skin more in their youth,” White noted.

She also emphasized the importance of proper skin protection starting early. “Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of UV radiation, because their skin is more delicate and sensitive than adults. Yearly skin exams can play a crucial role in reducing the risk of skin cancer by facilitating early detection and treatment. Detecting skin cancer at an early stage increases the chances of successful treatment and reduces the risk of metastases or disfiguring surgeries.”

For more information on protecting your skin from UV damage, visit epa.gov/radtown/ultraviolet-uv-radiation-and-sun-exposure

Side Bar: Myth Buster

White said, “It is a common misconception that individuals with darker skin tones are immune to the harmful effects of UV radiation and don’t need sunscreen. While it is true that darker skin tones have more natural protection against UV damage due to higher levels of melanin, they are still at risk for sunburn, skin cancer and other UV-related health issues. Sadly, as a result of this myth, those with darker skin tones are often diagnosed with skin cancer at a later stage, leading to poorer outcomes.” All the more reason for everyone of all ethnic backgrounds to have their skin checked annually!