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Effects of Sun

Sunburn. Overexposure to the sun can happen in just a few hours. A bad reaction includes tenderness, pain, swelling, and blistering, and may include fever, chills, and nausea. While there is no cure for sunburn, wet compresses, cool tub baths, and soothing lotions may help. If you have a bad burn, see your dermatologist.

Tanning. Some people think that a tan means good health and looks. Dermatologists know that a tan does not prevent sun damage, it is sun damage. Tanning occurs when the UV rays penetrate the skin and injure the pigment cells. The effects are cumulative, and with every burn, the skin becomes more damaged.

Premature wrinkling. People who work or lay in the sun without sufficient protection get sagging cheeks and deep wrinkles that may make them look much older. The sun can also cause unsightly red, yellow, gray, or brown spots and scaly growths that may develop into skin cancer.

Skin cancer. Skin cancer is caused by too much sun, both long-term exposure and bad sunburns. More than 90 percent of all skin cancers occur on parts of the body exposed to the sun. The face, neck, ears, forearms, and hands are the most common places for skin cancer to develop.

The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a small, shiny, fleshy nodule on the exposed parts of the body. It grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body; but it can severely damage skin around and below it. When diagnosed and treated early, it has a high cure rate.

Squamous cell carcinoma typically develops on the face, ears, lips, and mouth, beginning as a red scaly patch. It also has a high cure rate when detected and treated early but left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to other areas of the body and can be fatal.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and usually appears as a dark brown or black lump with irregular edges. Sometimes, it is multicolored with shades of red, blue, or white. If ignored, melanoma can spread or metastasize to other areas of the body, which can be fatal.

Eye damage. The sun can cause cataracts and other eye damage. Cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness.

Immune system suppression and disease. Short periods of sun exposure can damage the human immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections and cancers. Also, some diseases can become worse with sun exposure. These include herpes simplex (cold sores), chicken pox, lupus, and certain genetic problems.


Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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