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Here Comes the Sun

Enjoying the summer months could entail long-planned vacations, warm summer nights or lazy days of well-earned R & R. However you choose to spend your summer days, one message remains consistent across medical journals and beauty blogs alike: Protect Your Skin.

As we age, the outer layer of our skin thins. While the number of cell layers of skin remains unchanged, the number of our pigment-containing cells decreases. As a result, aging skin looks thinner, paler, and more translucent. Aging skin also tends to become drier. These intrinsic aging changes of the skin are considered part of the natural aging process.

We can influence the extrinsic aging that affects our skin with environment and lifestyle choices. There are some preventative actions we can take to prevent our skin from aging prematurely.

The overwhelmingly popular first step we can take in maintaining our skin health is to protect our skin from the sun every day. Sunblock. Sunblock. Sunblock. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends a broad-spectrum, SPF 30 (or higher) sun block that is also water-resistant. In addition, the AAD suggests “sun-protective clothing – such as a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection.”

Prolonged sun exposure can result in various skin changes. People may experience moles growing in diameter or darkening. Basal cell cancer is a type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells. Limiting sun exposure can help prevent basal cells from becoming cancerous. Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is the second most common form of skin cancer. People usually develop this skin cancer due to badly damaged skin from UV light. It is characterized by abnormal, accelerated growth of squamous cells.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the exact cause of all melanomas isn’t clear, but exposure to UV radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk of melanoma.”

It’s important to get a new or existing mole checked out if it:

· Changes shape or looks uneven

· Changes color, gets darker or has more than 2 colors

· Starts itching, crusting, flaking, or bleeding

· Gets larger or more raised from the skin

When examining your moles, look for these A, B, Cs:

· Asymmetry: one half of the mole does not match the other half

· Border: the border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular

· Color: the mole has different colors or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, red, or white

When in doubt, have your moles checked out! Annual full-body skin exams performed by your primary care physician or a dermatologist are strongly advised.

There is no quick-fix, Fountain of Youth solution to keeping your skin healthy as you age. While protecting yourself from the sun is essential, other factors play into your skin’s appearance as you age. The AAD encourages you to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise most days of the week, drink less alcohol, cleanse your skin gently, apply a facial moisturizer every day, and if you smoke, quit!

Enjoy the summer days while under a shady tree or beach umbrella. Be mindful out there… you’ve got some serious skin in the game!


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