UV Awareness MonthWith summer in full swing, it is a good time to remind everyone about protecting yourself from those warm summer rays. Ultraviolet (UV) rays that we love for a suntan can also have damaging effects on your skin and eyes. It is important to learn the risks of sun exposure to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB rays from the sun.

Learn how to Be Safe in the Sun including the different types of UV exposure, how to protect yourself, the different types of skin cancer and how to check your skin.  UV-B rays reach the outer layer of the skin with short wavelengths, UV-A wavelengths are longer and penetrate the middle layer of your skin. Too much sun exposure without protecting yourself can result in harmful effects such as:

  • Skin cancer
  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Damage to eyes and vision problems

How to Protect Yourself from UV Exposure

You can protect yourself by knowing your risk factors, knowing how to check your skin for signs of skin cancer and learning what to look for. UV rays can damage anyone’s skin and eyes, although lighter, fair skinned people are more likely to have sun damage and get skin cancer than darker skinned people. Anyone of any ethnicity can be affected, however, by the dangers of UV radiation.

The sun causes a tan by increasing the cells that cause brown pigment called melanin. Melanin helps to block out some of the UV rays which cause damage to a certain point, which is why darker skinned people are less likely to get sunburned and people with lighter skin are more likely to get a sunburn. Sunburns increase your risk of getting skin cancer including melanoma, although any UV exposure even if it does not cause a sunburn, can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Some factors that increase your risk of skin cancer include:

  • Fair skin, blonde, light, or red hair, green or blue eyes
  • Having freckles and burning before tanning
  • History or family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
  • Having many moles, large or irregular moles
  • Spending a lot of time outdoors
  • Living in subtropical or tropical climates
  • Living at high altitudes where UV rays are stronger
  • Having a medical condition that weakens the immune system
  • Some medications make the skin more sensitive to sunlight
  • Certain autoimmune diseases like lupus increase risk of skin cancer

Types of Skin Cancer

There are many different types of skin cancer, although Basal and Squamous cell skin cancers are the most common. They are often related to sun exposure and start in the top layer, the epidermis, of the skin.

Basal Cell Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type and accounts for nearly 8 out of 10 skin cancers. Basal cell skin cancer usually develops on the head, face, and neck, and tends to grow slowly. Basal cell cancer does not typically spread to other parts of the body although it can invade other tissue or bones if left untreated. If you have had basal cell skin cancer you are more likely to develop new areas in the future.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous cell carcinoma is another type of skin cancer accounting for nearly 2 out of 10 skin cancers and also starts in the outer part of the epidermis. Squamous cell cancers typically develop on areas exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, ears, lips, and hands. They can usually be removed completely although this type of skin cancer is more likely to invade deeper layers of skin and spread to other areas of the body than basal cell skin cancers.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is not as common as other skin cancer types, although melanoma is more likely to grow and to spread. The American Cancer Society expects that about 7,180 people will die of melanoma in 2021. Most melanomas can be prevented, learn more about the latest research in treating melanoma and always protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Protection Against UV Rays

Seeking shade is the best way to limit your exposure to harmful UV rays, although if this is not possible, remember to Slip, Slop, Slap® and Wrap:

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Wrap sunglasses around your eyes

When choosing sunscreen, make sure to look for broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher. Remember that sunscreen is just a filter, no sunscreen will protect you fully, and most people do not apply enough sunscreen. Waterproof sunscreens may be water resistant although it should state how long it protects your skin in these conditions and should be re-applied accordingly.

Check Your Skin

You should check your skin at least once per month in a well-lit room with a full length mirror, a hand held mirror is also helpful. Face the mirror and check your face, neck, chest, and stomach. Lift your arms and check under the arms, your sides, hands, palms and between the fingers and under your fingernails. Sit down and check the tops of your legs, feet, toes and use a mirror to check the back of your legs.

Look for:

  • A mole or spot that is new, or changing in size, color, or shape
  • A new spot, lump, bump, or growth
  • A rough or dry red area
  • A rough bump
  • New soreness, itchiness, or pain
  • A sore that bleeds or will not heal

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types, although there are many things that you can do to prevent skin cancer.

Greater Waterbury Imaging Center reminds you to protect your skin and eyes from harmful UV rays while enjoying the sun. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen, find shade, and wear clothing to protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun. Contact your doctor with any new changes in your skin and contact GWIC for all your MR imaging needs.