Posted by: Chelsea Hampton | April 12, 2012

Protecting Your Skin from Sun Damage

It’s that time of year again – the time for running and hiking outdoors, swimming, gardening, camping, fishing and…remembering to use sunscreen! Skin is the largest organ of the human body and has many protective features. However, skin is incredibly vulnerable to the many elements we are exposed to, especially ultraviolet radiation. People are exposed to sunlight to some degree nearly every day, especially those who spend time working outdoors, and this accumulation of exposure can take a toll on skin. Damage caused by exposure to sunlight can result in more visible signs of aging, sun spots, cell mutations and even skin cancer. There are many things you can do to protect your skin from UV damage, and it is important to understand that skin actually needs to be protected year-round. While warm weather may be seasonal, ultraviolet light exposure is not. Know the facts and learn what you can do to avoid the harmful effects of over-exposure to UV rays!

   Did You Know…?

  • In the U.S., skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer at some point during their lives.
  • While Melanoma is not the most common form of skin cancer, it is the most lethal. Melanoma results in more fatalities than of any other type of skin cancer.
  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, with squamous cell carcinoma being the second most common form.
  • While there are many factors that can play a role in developing skin cancer, ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure is a primary cause.
  • Ultraviolet radiation is a carcinogen, just like asbestos and certain chemicals in cigarettes. The International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes ultraviolet tanning devices as cancer-causing agents. Using tanning beds can significantly increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Up to 90 percent of the changes in skin related to aging are caused by sun damage.
  • There is a higher prevalence of melanoma in men than in women, and the mortality rate for this form of cancer in men is increasing.

Prevention Tips:

  • Make sunscreen a part of your daily routine year-round. It is recommended that a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher be used daily, and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher be used during prolonged periods of outdoor sun exposure. Be sure to reapply throughout the day. For those who wear makeup, it may also double as sunscreen thanks to many companies incorporating this into their products, so be sure to check labels when buying cosmetics.    
  • Try to avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm, since this is typically the time when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you have to be outside for any length of time during these hours, try to seek shade as much as possible.
  • Try to wear as much protective clothing as possible, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Take precautions when using sun-sensitizing medications. Certain types of drugs such as antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. It is important to talk with your physician and be aware of potential side effects when starting new medications.
  • Check your skin regularly. Pay close attention to any pre-existing moles, freckles and other skin growths, and note any changes. See a physician for annual skin exams, particularly if you have a family history of skin cancer and/or have had any previous skin abnormalities. 

To learn more about the effects of UV light, stresses on skin, effects of aging and the dermal layers, check out the interactive web page about skin by the National Geographic website: 

Information obtained and adapted from the following sources:

The Skin Cancer Foundation

Mayo Clinic – Health Information – Skin Cancer



This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.


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