A Place In The Sun
We all love those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer... boating, lounging by the pool, or grilling in the backyard with family and friends. But all the while, that hot Texas sun is beaming down, creating the risk of sunburn and serious damage to your skin and health.
WHAT IS SUNBURN, REALLY?
Sunburn occurs when your skin cells are damaged by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. You can’t feel the sun’s damaging UV rays, and sunburn doesn’t have to be painful, peeling, or blistering. Even if your skin has only just turned pink or red after time in the sun, that’s sunburn. The sun emits two types of UV rays that damage skin.
• UVA penetrates deep into your skin. It mostly ages the skin, but contributes to sunburn.
• UVB causes the majority of sunburns.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SKIN WHEN YOU GET A SUNBURN?
A sunburn may look a lot like the burn you get when you touch a hot object, but it’s very different. A sunburn is a sign that UV rays have mutated the DNA in your skin cells. Your body’s effort to repair these mutated cells leads to the pain and heat of sunburn.
In contrast, touching a hot object damages skin cells, which causes redness and pain, but your DNA stays the same. A burn from a hot object doesn’t cause mutations in your skin cells.With either kind of burn, your body attempts to repair the damage, but our body’s repair mechanism isn’t perfect. With a sunburn, some of the mutated cells can be left behind. Over time, these abnormal cells may multiply and accumulate more damaging mutations. Years later, this buildup of mutated cells can become skin cancer. Just getting a sunburn once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Be safe this summer—and when you’re outdoors, use shade, clothing, and sunscreen to protect yourself from those harmful UV rays.
Most types of skin cancer are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, or artificial UV sources such as tanning beds. Knowing what they are and how to spot them might help you out down the road, so take a closer look!
COMMON TYPES OF SKIN CANCER
At least one million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer yearly, and the three most common types are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma.
BASAL CELL CARCINOMA
The most common form of skin cancer, it’s unlikely to move to other parts of your body and usually appears as a slow-growing, non-healing lesion. Treatment varies from creams such as fluorouracil or imiquimod to various types of outpatient surgery.
SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA
The second most common form of skin cancer, it’s fairly slow growing but can spread to tissues, bones and nearby lymph nodes. Caught early, it’s fairly easy to treat, usually with some form of outpatient surgery. It usually presents as a recurrent scaly bump, a non-healing ulcer, or even a persistent pimple-like sore.
Accounting for only about 1 percent of skin cancers, it causes the large majority of skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, one American will die from it every hour of every day. Melanoma tumors are usually brown or black, but can also be pink, tan, or even white. In
early stages it can sometimes be treated with surgery alone, but advanced cases often require chemotherapy and radiation as well.
Dr. Stephanie A. Savory, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says you can use the ABCDE method to detect signs of melanoma.
Asymmetry – One half of a skin lesion does not match the other half.
Border irregularity – The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color – The pigmentation is not uniform, and shades of tan, brown, and black are present.
Diameter – Any growth in a mole is cause for concern, especially if larger than roughly the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolution – A change in the size, shape, tenderness, surface, characteristics (especially bleeding), or color of a mole.
“If you suspect you may have skin cancer,” Dr. Savory urges, “make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately!”