The focus of this post is the many ways that your skin can be damaged from sunburn or over-exposure to UV rays. We’ll start with the most commonly known consequence (skin cancer) and then move on to some cosmetic implications.
Skin Cancer: Melanomas and Non-Melanomas
Melanoma is, generally, a cancer of the skin. It begins in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the pigment in your skin. There are several types of melanoma:
- Cutaneous Melanoma: melanoma of the skin; most common type
- Mucosal Melanoma: melanoma of the mucosalsurfaces (mucous membranes are moist surfaces that line cavities within the body)
- Ocular Melanoma: melanoma of the eye
Approximately 65% of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV rays from natural or artificial light sources.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is usually called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are generally treated through surgery because they are less likely to spread to other parts of the body.
- Wrinkles (both fine and coarse)
- Age spots – Discolouration of certain areas of the skin (called mottled pigmentation)
- Sallowness (when your skin is yellowish)
- Telangiectasia – a dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
- Elastosis – the destruction of elastic tissue and collagen, causing wrinkles and lines in the skin
It’s important to note that these various types of consequences are caused by repeated sun exposure without proper protection. The purpose of this is not to scare anyone – chances are, most of us have had sunburns at some point in our lives and that doesn’t mean that you will definitely get any of the above. The purpose of our post is to raise awareness!
If you have ever damaged your skin, it is important to be mindful and do the appropriate checks to help you catch any abnormalities early. To make sure that you’re on top of things, you should check yourself head-to-toe. Once a month, use a mirror to see in all of the tricky spots. The Melanoma Research Foundation’s website has the ABCDE’s of Melanoma, which are really helpful in knowing what to look for:
- A – Asymmetrical Shape: melanomas are typically irregular in shape
- B – Border: melanomas typically have irregular borders that are difficult to define
- C – Colour: if there is more than one colour (blue, brown, black, red, etc.) or if the distribution of colour is uneven, it may be a sign of melanoma
- D – Diameter: melanoma lesions are often greater than 6mm (approximately the size of a pencil eraser)
- E – Evolution: thought to be the most important factor. If a mole undergoes changes in colour or size, GET IT CHECKED.
If you love the warmth of the sun, tune in to our next post which will be all about preventative measures that can be taken!