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The Harm of Sun Worshipping

07/02/2014 04:03PM ● Published by Robert Frey

By Ellen S. Mullen, M.D.

Louisiana is touted as being one of the warmest and sunniest states.  While many people are sun worshippers, what are the harms caused by the sun’s rays?  

The sun produces two types of rays which are called ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays (UVA and UVB rays).  These rays can cause early wrinkles, skin cancer and other skin problems.  Many people enjoy getting a “fake bake” or going to tanning booths.  Most tanning booths use UVA rays but these rays can also, over time, cause skin damage.

Skin cancer is the most worrisome problem that the sun causes.  Skin cancer is also the number one cancer in humans.  Skin cancer occurs most frequently on areas of the body that are repeatedly exposed to the sun.  This includes the head, neck, face, tips of the ears, hands, forearms, shoulders, back, chests of men and the back and lower legs of women.

You are at a higher risk for skin cancer if you have fair skin, red or blond hair, light colored eyes, sunburn easily, have lots of moles or freckles, have a history of a large amount of sun exposure or have had a serious sunburn.  Having a family member with skin cancer is also a risk factor for developing skin cancer.

One can reduce their risk of skin cancer by avoiding the sun especially when it is the strongest which is between 10a.m. and 4p.m.  

Sunburns and suntans are signs that your skin has been damaged.  Wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 even on cloudy days is helpful.  Sunscreen should be used generously and put on 30 minutes before going into the sun.  Sunscreen should be reapplied every hour especially if you are sweating or swimming.  

Wearing a 6 inch brim hat helps to protect your face, neck and ears from the sun.  Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun and decrease your risk of cataracts.

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