Environ for life
The sun and your skin
Life on earth exists largely because of our beautiful sunshine. It is something humans have evolved to associate with fun and pleasure. It lifts our spirits and makes us feel good. It gives us vitamin D to keep our bones strong and prevent cancer. Unfortunately though, the sun can also cause a lot of skin damage when skin is exposed to the light of the sun for too long.
We are increasingly aware of the dangers of excessive exposure to sunlight and especially the ultraviolet fraction of the light. These rays are the ones causing painful sunburn and over a period of time may damage skin cells and cause ageing and cancer.
The numbers of melanomas and other skin cancers are ironically still rising today, in spite of an anti-tan culture and very widespread use of predominantly UVB-absorbing sunscreens.
People need no more than 10 to maximum 15 minutes of direct sun exposure to face, neck and arms in near-midday sun to produce sufficient levels of vitamin D. At night vitamin A and antioxidants should be applied to restore the vitamin A content in the skin and to mop up any excessive free radicals accumulated during the day.
There are three commonly-found skin cancer types: malignant melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas. Malignant melanomas are moles that have changed in shape and colour, or a pigmented lesion that itches, breaks down, refuses to heal or changes colour. Don't ignore these signs - they need to be diagnosed, and possibly removed, as quickly as possible.
Non-melanoma cancers are less of a threat and are usually not pigmented. They can be flat, nodular growths or form shallow ulcers that don't heal. These also need to be seen by a dermatologist, and most likely cut out.
Check your skin regularly for spots and changes - early detection is best, so consult your doctor is you spot anything suspicious.