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Finding a quiet place to peacefully laze in the hot sun feels like one of the most therapeutic experiences when it comes to cost-free relaxation. Unfortunately, prolonged periods of time spent in the sun without proper skin protection could, at worst, end up costing you your life to skin cancer.
Melanoma is one of the darker sides of sunbathing and is becoming an increasingly common diagnosis in America. By recognizing the symptoms of melanoma early on, it can be treated with minor surgery. With UV radiation being a proven human carcinogen, there are a few precautions you can put into place – to be able to enjoy the positive health benefits of the sun’s rays, without becoming one of the many unfortunate victims of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that can develop anywhere on the skin. It most commonly occurs after exposure to UV Radiation from the sun. Depending on your skin type, you may have a greater risk of melanoma; especially if you have fair skin, red hair, or blue eyes.
While melanoma first develops on the skin’s surface, if left untreated, cancer can easily spread to the lymph nodes and even your organs. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime, with nearly 10,000 deaths predicted for the year 2017 alone in America. Melanoma is considered an aggressive form of cancer given how quickly it can spread through the body.
Melanin is the pigment that is produced by your cells called melanocytes. The amount of melanin your body produces depends on your complexion – so if you have fair skin you’ll most likely burn after even a small amount of time in the sun, whereas darker skin complexions are more likely to tan. It has been reported in a study published by the National Institute of Health, that fair skin is also lacking in a UV-blocking dark pigment which goes by the name of eumelanin, making it easy for UV rays to penetrate the skin at a deeper level.
Melanin naturally protects your skin and acts as a barrier, but with too much sun exposure, melanin can go into overdrive and even become toxic.
Social views on getting a tan
In many Western countries, a tan is viewed as a sign of health and beauty. In Eastern countries, however, it is often the opposite, and having a tan is considered less acceptable. Many people living in Asian countries will go to great lengths to avoid getting a tan (i.e., using an umbrella and SPF) when going out in the sun. Such cultures often believe that a tan is associated with a lower socio-economic status.
You may have heard that a tan is actually unhealthy and a sign of skin damage, and from a medical perspective, this is completely true. That’s because prolonged exposure to the sun can cause skin cells to grow abnormally, multiply and even mutate – all of which increase your risk of melanoma developing.
Exposure to the sun while wearing SPF, on the other hand, can be very healthy, and a good source of Vitamin D, which is needed for strong bones. The sun has also been shown to boost mood. It has been shown that Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that affects happiness and mood is higher on sunny days.