Sunlight can cause cancer


May 31, 2016
Woman applying sunscreen

Dear Readers,

Mary-Gaye, 24, from Discovery Bay, St Ann, is home for a month after living in Canada for years.

As a 'sun worshipper' who recently suffered from a bad case of sunburn, she asked how best to avoid sun burn?

She uses sunblock before venturing into the sun every day but still gets sunburned. She also asks for some information on sunburn. Someone told her that it ages her skin.

Lying exposed to sunlight can give the skin a glowing and very healthy look, short term.

It's a good look but it may well be a short-term investment! Exposure to sunlight is ultimately the cause of many of the wrinkles and age spots which we eventually noticed. Sun-tanning can actually accelerate the ageing process, and without a doubt, increases the risk for developing skin cancer.

Over time, the ultraviolet light contained in sun rays damages the elastin fibres in our skin. This leads to sagging, stretchy skin, which takes longer to heal when cut or abraded.

Whereas none of this is apparent early in life, it'll show later on, don't doubt this!

Exposure to sunlight can cause:

• Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions and tumours

• Wrinkles

• Freckles

• Skin discolouration

• Dilation of small blood vessels in the skin.

• Destruction of elastic and collagen skin tissue

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer. Over time, sun exposure can lead to basal and squamous cell-skin cancers, but frequent sun burns, especially before age 18 years increases the risk of melanoma, a virulent form of skin cancer.

We are all at risk of developing skin cancer but the very fair-skinned and freckled are at an even greater risk. Other risk factors include:

• A family history of skin cancer or the person having a prior history of skin cancer.

• Outdoor job

• Living in a hot, sunny climate (like Jamaica)

• History of several severe episodes of sunburn

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in the skin, a new mole or a change in the look and growth pattern of an old mole.

With the use of protection against sunlight reaching the skin, the skin can repair itself to an extent, but, at this time, nothing can completely undo sun damage to the skin.

To delay onset of skin changes due to sun light:

• Stay out of the sun as much as possible

• Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of greater than 30 UBV protection, every 2 hours when you are in the sun swimming or otherwise.

• Apply zinc oxide (for UBA protection) 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter when significantly sun-exposed.

• Females should select cosmetic products which give UV protection

• Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible

• Eighty per cent of a person's lifetime sun exposure is, for many individuals, acquired before age 18.

Educate your children about the dangers of overexposure to sunlight to help prevent early ageing and skin cancer.

The ultraviolet (UV) radiation present in sunlight is a skin carcinogen (it causes cancer) and is classified as UVA, UVB and UVC Sun waves.

UVA can penetrate deeper layers into the skin and causes ageing and skin cancer.

UBA makes up 95 per cent of the sun rays which reach earth. UBV is mostly trapped by the ozone layer and is responsible for the production of Vitamin D in our bodies.

Over exposure to UVB can cause some skin cancers, sun burns and cataracts. Because of the depletion of the ozone layer, UVB is now causing more skin cancers than previously. UVC radiation is almost fully blocked by the ozone layer from entering the earth's atmosphere.

Just one severe sun burn in childhood, or five sunburns during a person's life, doubles that person's risk of developing skin cancer.

With this knowledge available it is now very important that we shield children from the effects of over-exposure to the sun from birth.

Also, be careful of cloudy days when people are tempted to leave off sunscreen as 80 per cent of UVB rays still reach the earth's surface and can cause sunburn and damage the skin.

UV radiation is also responsible for ageing of the skin. Regular over exposure to UV from sunlight will result in premature ageing which we all want to avoid! Wrinkles are the consequence.

In the words of one song writer. "If I could offer you ... one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it".

Write to:

Check Up,

PO Box 1731,

KGN 8 or


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