Is there such a thing as a healthy glow?
by Brittany Sands, CRNP, Chestnut Hill Hospital
Summer is here, and it may be tempting to park yourself in a lawn chair or tanning bed to get that sun-kissed glow. Unfortunately, if you don’t properly protect your skin, you will pay for it later with wrinkled, splotchy skin – or possibly with your life.
A tan – once considered a sign of vitality and good health – is actually the skin cell’s response to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Repeated exposure to the sun and cumulative sunburns not only contributes to premature skin aging– it can also lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually – more than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And skin cancer is on the rise, with the largest increases seen among white people and women ages 18 to 39. A recent study found that during the past 40 years, the rates of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – grew by 800 percent among women 18 to 39 and 400 percent among men.
Sunburn can happen whether you’re indoors or outside. Health experts attribute this rise to the popularity of indoor tanning. People who use indoor tanning equipment are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used a tanning bed.
Two types of UV radiation are in both the sun’s rays and artificial tanning equipment: UVB is the chief culprit behind sunburn, while UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply, are associated with wrinkling and premature aging. UVA rays also increase the cancerous properties of UVB rays, and can cause skin cancer, as well.
Skin cancer starts as an abnormality in the skin’s inner or outer layers, resulting from sunburn, a mole, or an irregular growth. Skin cancers fall into three types:
Certain people are at greater risk for sunburns and for skin cancer. People with a fair complexion, blond or red hair, and blue, green or grey eyes– as well as people who live in hotter and sunnier climates, close to the equator – are more likely to develop precancerous skin conditions.
Everyone loves the healthy look of a bit of sun, but it’s important to exercise caution when spending time outdoors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using a broad-spectrum (protects from both UVA and UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater to protect uncovered skin. Perform regular self-checks of your skin to watch for any new skin growths or changes in existing moles or spots. See your doctor to report any suspicious changes in mole size or appearance.
To learn more, choose the “Health Resources” tab and type “skin cancer” in the search box. You will find an assortment of videos and podcasts, health tips– and more.
Brittany Sands, CRNP, is a certified nurse practitioner at Family Care Associates in Ft. Washington.
Chestnut Hill Hospital (CHH) is a community-based, university-affiliated, teaching hospital committed to excellent patient-centered care. CHH provides a full range of inpatient and outpatient, diagnostic and treatment services for our neighbors in northwest Philadelphia and eastern Montgomery County. More than 300 board-certified physicians comprise the medical staff and support medical specialties including minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery, cardiology, gynecology, oncology, orthopedics, urology, family practice and internal medicine. Our comprehensive services include primary care practices, two women’s centers and an off-site physical therapy center. CHH is affiliated with university-hospitals in Philadelphia for heart, stroke and cancer care, as well as our hospitalist and residency programs. Chestnut Hill has 132-beds and is accredited by the Joint Commission.
8835 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118