Sun Damage – Be Informed.

Sun damage is the leading cause of cancer in New Zealand. Don’t underestimate the damage the sun can cause.

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Here are the facts about sun damage:

  • The SUN is the cause of 99% of non-melanoma skin cancer and up to 70% of melanoma skin cancer
  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in NZ
  • The SUN is the cause of premature aging of our skin
  • The SUN damages unprotected skin throughout the entire day, regardless of weather, every day of the year and even while driving.
  • These are the reasons why we should apply a good suncreen to exposed skin every single day before we leave the house

Here’s some facts about the sun:

  • The Sun emits Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) that reaches the earth. UVR is part of the invisible spectrum of light
  • The UVR wavelengths are divided into 3 groups- A, B and C
  • UVA (long wavelength) and UVB (short wavelength) reach the earth’s surface.
  • UVC – ultra short wavelength, lethal to humans, is absorbed by the ozone layer
  • Skin needs to be protected from BOTH UVA and UVB because both cause premature skin aging and BOTH CAUSE CANCER.

UVA : (A is for aging)

  • 95% of the UVR reaching earth.
  • Constant intensity all day, every day of the year, including wet or cloudy days
  • Penetrates glass
  • Longest wavelength = penetrates deep into the skin (into the dermis).
  • Causes premature skin aging (by destruction of the skin’s supporting structure- collagen- in the dermis resulting in sagging skin and prominent, broken blood vessels).
  • Causes skin cancer (Suppresses the immune system of the skin / Damages skin cellular DNA).

UVB : (B is for burning)

  • 5% of the UVR reaching earth
  • More intense between 11am and 2pm.
  • Shorter rays = penetrates surface of skin (into the epidermis).
  • Causes burning
  • Causes skin cancer (Damages skin cellular DNA)
  • Causes premature skin aging (Causes abnormal pigmentation, skin lesions, wrinkles)

Both UVA and UVB Radiation damages skin cells resulting in the production of free radicals which trigger a destructive inflammatory cascade resulting in both premature aging of the skin and the development of skin cancers.

How do we protect ourselves from Sun damage?
Use a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen every day.

      • How do we choose the right Sunscreen?
        Look for the words “Broad Spectrum”. Broad Spectrum means protection against both UVA and UVB radiation
      • Look for the letters SPF and a high number (30 or above).
      • SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of UVB transmission through a sunscreen. Testing is carried out in a laboratory using a spectrometer. To calculate how much sun protection your SPF sun screen provides requires checking weather apps that state the current ‘Safe non-burn time’. Safe non-burn times vary according to the time of day and the season.
      • For example, if the Safe non-burn time is 20 minutes, then application of a SPF 30 sunscreen theoretically increases the Safe non-burn time to 20 minutes x 30 = 600 minutes.
      • SPF doesn’t take into account other variables like individual skin type but basically the higher the SPF the better the sun screen (but only if the sunscreen is broad spectrum and also filters UVA)

There are 2 Types of sunscreens available:

  • Chemical (UVR Absorbers)
    • Mechanism of action =Energy absorption of UVR
    • Active ingredients =Organic chemical compounds eg. Cinnamates
    • Must be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to be effective
    • Must be applied directy onto skin (under moisturisers and foundations)
    • Best sunscreen for very active busy people
    • Some are formulated to last all day long
  • Physical (UVR Reflectors)
    • Mechanism of action = Reflect UVR away from body
    • Active ingredients=Zinc oxide / Titanium dioxideWorks immediately after application (so is the best one to have in the car to apply before driving off if you have forgotten to apply a chemical sunscreen 30 minutes before leaving home)
    • Applied over moisturisers and other skin products
    • Zinc is essential for skin health
    • Can be easily wiped off skin if skin gets sweaty – so use a chemical sunscreen if exercising outside

I’ve chosen a selection of some of the best sunscreens available. The best sunscreen options contain antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients in addition to the active sunscreening ingredients.

How do we check our skin for suspicious spots that might be cancer: