The sun is not your friend

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Yesterday I celebrated my 26th birthday with a 9 hour picnic in Dolores Park in SF and for the first time in my life I was aware that some of my friends were starting to wear large hats and sunscreen. In fact, one of my friends was asking me about tinting her windows to block out excess sun. Finally…we are all now realizing what our mothers have been telling us since day 1 and what was popularized by  Baz Luhrmann in the popular song from the 90’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”.

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer you as a medical student, it is this: Wear sunscreen. As young people, oftentimes we think we are invincible and since we can’t see the cumulative damage of the sun, we don’t care. But trust me. It can and will show and the sun is not going to go easy on you. Especially you, light skinned, blonde or red-headed individuals.

dermatoheliosis aging UVA

Dermatoheliosis strongly demonstrated on the left side of the patient’s face, the cumulative effects of 28 years of truck driving without proper sun protection. Contrast this with the smoother, younger skin on the right side of the face, shielded from UVA rays.

Skin cancer aside (that’s a whole post in of itself), let’s just talk about aging. The sun has been scientifically proven to cause photo-aging, a term known as “dermatoheliosis”. I don’t know if you have seen this, but a New England Journal of Medicine article published last year showed a shocking photo of a 69 year old man with a 28 year history of sun exposure on just half of his face. The patient was a truck driver, and the left side of his face was chronically exposed to the sun. Note the rough, thickened skin and the wrinkles on the left side, compared to the smoother, younger looking skin on the right. This is clinical proof that the sun causes more damage and aging to your skin than you might think.

Last week, a randomized controlled trial from Australia confirmed that regular sunscreen use slows skin aging. This group studied 903 adults that were randomized to different groups such as using sunscreen regularly everyday to using sunscreen randomly whenever individuals wanted. Over the course of 4 years, the researchers quantified skin damage by looking at the amount of lines and wrinkles, evidence of UV damage to the skin’s elastic fibers, visible in hand casts. The result? No evidence of increased skin damage in the group that used sunscreen religiously everyday, compared to a 24% increase in lines and wrinkling in the discretionary group.

Sunscreen protects your skin against cancer and also slows visible aging. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you just put on a simple coat of at least spf30 sunscreen each day, even to protect you on your drive to work or the walk from your car to the office. This goes for you too, gentlemen, because you’re not going to like the cumulative effects of UV rays in the future. I think you’ll thank me later.

More information:

How to select a sunscreen (from the American Academy of Dermatology)

Resources:

4 Comments on The sun is not your friend

  1. matthewsrr
    June 10, 2013 at 5:40 am (4 years ago)

    Reblogged this on Medical Minded and commented:
    Personally, I am terrible about wearing sunscreen and am constantly reminded by my wife that I should. Fortunately, the Native American traits from my great grandpa are very obvious in my skin tone, but I do need to get better about protecting my skin. This is a great post showing the drastic effects the sun can have on our skin over time tough!

    Reply
    • teawithmd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:41 am (4 years ago)

      I thought we could all use a reminder from time to time. I just bought a combined sunscreen/moisturizer with spf 30 at a drugstore yesterday so daily AM application kills two birds with one stone!

      Reply
  2. matthewsrr
    June 10, 2013 at 5:40 am (4 years ago)

    Reblogged this on Medical Minded and commented:
    Personally, I am terrible about wearing sunscreen and am constantly reminded by my wife that I should. Fortunately, the Native American traits from my great grandpa are very obvious in my skin tone, but I do need to get better about protecting my skin. This is a great post showing the drastic effects the sun can have on our skin over time tough!

    Reply
    • teawithmd
      June 10, 2013 at 7:41 am (4 years ago)

      I thought we could all use a reminder from time to time. I just bought a combined sunscreen/moisturizer with spf 30 at a drugstore yesterday so daily AM application kills two birds with one stone!

      Reply

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