When we have warm, sunny summer days in our area, many of us go outdoors, and some of us can't resist spending many hours outside exposed to the sun.
Although lots of sunny weather seems to lift everyone's mood, not all of the sun's effects on us are healthy. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is made up of invisible but intense rays of the sun that damage our skin. Some harmful effects, such as suntan or sunburn, are visible right away. This darkening and reddening of the skin is the first sign of skin damage!
Other skin changes occur but take longer to become obvious, such as liver spots and deep wrinkles. With repeated sun exposure over the years, skin damage can even progress into cancerous tumors.
People with darker skin pigment are less likely to burn, and are more resistant to other damage because of the protective action of special cells in the skin called melanocytes, which produce a dark pigment known as melanin. In spite of this protection, however, even those with darker skin can burn and be injured by repeated exposures to UV light. In addition, this repeated exposure will produce negative effects even in dark skinned individuals, including dry, rough patches, wrinkling and other skin disorders. So even though people with darker skin can tan and tolerate longer periods of sun exposure without "burning," the sun will still cause skin damage.
Remember to slip on some protective clothing, slap on a hat and slop on adequate sunscreen to protect your skin, every time you are out skiing, swimming, boating, hiking or any of the other wonderful activities we enjoy in the Northwest!