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MCH Caress: Test Your Sunburn IQ!

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cartoon sun wearing sunglasses

Be careful in the sun or you can get burned.

It’s that time again. The snow has melted. The kids are out of school. Vacation time has begun. Along with the fun comes a warning—particularly about sun exposure.

Most people don’t give much thought to the fact that sunburn is actually evidence that rays have killed living tissue (skin). When skin is burnt, it will peel off. Sunburns occur when people spend too much time being exposing their skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays. While getting sunburns is easy to do, those who consistently spend a lot of time in the sun (particularly without any type of sunscreen) are apt to encounter a variety of related issues: scaly skin, to peeling layers of skin, to the ultimate possibility of skin cancer or other types of skin tumors. The sun may feel good. But people who spend an inordinate amount of time enjoying it are apt, ultimately, to have skin that looks and feels like leather resulting from too many years spent basking in its rays.

In the past couple of decades, physicians have stepped up their warnings to patients to be vigilant about sun exposure, particularly if they refuse or forget to wear sunscreen. Many, but not all, skin cancers can be traced to too much time in the sun.

Sun damage doesn’t just occur to light-skinned people. It can happen to people with many skin shades. And, oddly enough, certain pharmaceuticals can affect a person’s sensitivity to UV radiation. For instance, many antibiotics, oral contraceptives and tranquilizers increase the damaging effects of the sun. A person’s family characteristics can also affect how vulnerable they are to excessive ultra-violet radiation. People who have very fair skin and/or those who easily freckle are at greater risk due to their light skin.

Using sunscreen prevents the direct DNA damage that causes sunburn and the two most common forms of skin cancer–basal-cell carcinoma and squamous-cell carcinoma. However, if the sunscreen penetrates the skin, it can promote indirect DNA damage, which can cause the most lethal form of skin cancer—malignant melanoma. This form of skin cancer causes 75 percent of the all skin cancer-related deaths.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is one way to help block the direct rays of the sun. It’s also important to remember that lying outside and enjoying the sun should be taken in small doses. Those who lay out on the sand all day without any protection are those who may end up in the MCH Emergency Room. When it comes to sun exposure and potential problems, the term “better safe than sorry” certainly applies.

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