How Is Skin Cancer Caused by Sun Exposure?

Date: Jul 2017

Most of us are aware that the sun is linked to skin cancer, age spots and wrinkles, but you might not know exactly how the sun damages your skin.

UV Light

Sunlight is composed of different wavelengths of light, including the visible light that allows us to see in different colours and the infrared light that feels warm. The damage is done by some of the high energy ultraviolet wavelengths that we can’t see or feel:
  • UVB light, which causes sunburn.
  • UVA light, which damages the deeper layers of the skin.
It is these same UV wavelengths that are generated by sunbeds, which is why using a tanning bed can be so bad for your skin.

How the Sun Damages Your Skin

When the powerful UV rays enter your skin, they can damage the DNA inside your cells. Although our bodies are able to repair some of this damage, we can’t eliminate it all. Over time, errors can accumulate in the DNA and this can cause our skin cells to start behaving abnormally. If a damaged cell starts replicating uncontrollably, it can develop into skin cancer.

What Happens When You Get Sunburn?

One of the most obvious signs that your skin has been damaged is sunburn. Sunburn happens when your body is trying to repair the damage done to your DNA by UV light. It can range from a slight reddening of exposed areas to painful patches of raw and blistering skin. If you have darker skin, it might just feel a little tender or itchy without any noticeable change in colour.
When your skin is damaged to the point that it burns, it can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. However, it is better to focus on what you can do to prevent future damage than to worry about past sunburn. You can avoid sunburn and the risk of skin cancer caused by sun damage. All you have to do is limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, cover up or stay in the shade during the sunniest parts of the day, and wear sun cream in the summer.

Did you know?

Most moles are not a cause for concern and present a purely cosmetic problem. However, moles can occasionally undergo changes that lead to them becoming cancerous.

Acne is a common condition characterised by blackheads, whiteheads and cysts. It affects the greasy and hair-bearing areas such as the face, chest and back.

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