Ditch the cigarettes when painting the town red — a new study shows in addition to harming overall health, smoking while drinking can contribute to more painful hangovers.
The Impacts of Sun Damage (and How to Avoid Them!)
The New England Journal of Medicine recently featured a 69-year-old male truck driver who suffers from premature aging. Lots of studies warn against the impact of sun damage, but what makes this one so interesting is the strange before/after effect particular to the subject.
The 69-year-old truck driver was exposed to sun far more on the left side of his face, where the damage is accelerated compared to the right side of his face. For 28 years, the man was hit with ultraviolet A (UVA) damage through the window of his truck. Although ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can lead to skin damage, UVA rays have been more associated with cases of skin cancer . The man was advised to use sunscreen and other topical agents after the study.
It's Always Sunny — Why It Matters
Other studies have found similar associations between lifetime sun exposure and skin aging. People younger than 50 have more sensitive skin to sun exposure, all the more reason for people in their prime to lather on the sunscreen.The driver's case shows why it’s important to use sunscreen, stay covered, and avoid sun when it's at its highest point. This is especially important for people who are constantly exposed to UVA rays . Of course, the study is limited to one special case subject, so it’s hard to extrapolate the findings to the general public. The article also did not indicate if there were any other contributing factors to the skin damage, such as use of sunscreen or sun exposure when not on the job.
To UVB or Not to UVB — The Need-to-Know
The study is a clear call to make sure to stay covered even when sipping coladas and having summer fun. Wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher protects the skin against dangerous UVA/B rays. Applying about 2 tablespoons (about the same amount as a shot glass) at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapplying every 2 hours will help keep skin healthy. Also look out for labels on sunscreen bottles on what kinds of rays the skin is being protected from. But what the heck is the difference between the two? Here are the players:
- UVA: These longer waves are more harmful because they’re able to penetrate through window glass, such as the truck driver’s vehicle, offices, and houses. This also allows them to enter deeper into our skin and effect connective tissue and blood vessels, causing skin aging and wrinkling. UVA waves make up 90 percent to 95 percent of the waves that reach the earth’s surface year round. People are even susceptible to UVA damage through some cotton clothing. UVA is also the ray found in most tanning salon booths.
- UVB: These shorter waves are found in 5 percent to 10 percents of the solar UV energy that reaches the earth’s surface, primarily between 10 am and 4 pm from April to October. These waves can be blocked by windows and glass. UVB is primarily responsible for skin reddening and sunburns. That’s when SPF — an indication of how long it will take UVB rays to redden the skin after applying sunscreen — comes in handy. UVB rays are also found in tanning booths.
Sunscreen isn’t the only protection out there, though. Wearing a hat or sunglasses are always options. When possible opt for shade, especially midday when those UVB rays are waiting to pounce. To avoid the truck driver’s incident, add tinted UV film to windows such as in houses and cars to protect against skin damage. To enjoy more time outside in the sun, abide by these actions. And remember — have fun!
Were you surprised to see the difference in the truck driver? And how do you stay safe when enjoying the summer sun? Let us know in the comments.
Photo: Jennifer Gordon and Meghan Dubina
- Skin changes in the elderly people--how strong is the influence of the UV radiation on skin aging? Situm, M., Buljan, M., Cavka, V., et al. Department of Dermatology and Venereology, University Hospital Sestre Milosrdnice, Zagreb, Croatia. Collegium Antropologicum, 2010 Apr;34 Suppl 2:9-13⤴
- Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. Green, A.C., Williams, G.M., et al. Queensland Institute of Medical Research, PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland, Australia. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2011 Jan 20;29(3):257-63⤴
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For years, we’ve been told to avoid the sun at all costs. To stay indoors or under shade. To draw the blinds and turn vampire between the hours of ten AM and four PM. To slather ourselves with the highest-grade sunblock money can buy if, perish the thought, we ever have to expose an inch of skin to those evil UV rays.
Now – does that make any sense, at all?
What did our ancestors do without sunscreen? What did they do without office buildings and curtains and jobs that kept them indoors all day and out of the sun?
It’s silly. We evolved outdoors. Sun exposure – regular sun exposure, even – was an important aspect of life. As such, we evolved to require a minimum dose of sunlight to ensure optimal health.
How’s that work?
Well, UVB rays (you know, the super-evil ones) from the sun interact with cholesterol in our skin to produce something called vitamin D. Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin; it acts more like a hormone in your body, affecting a whole host of organs, tissues, and functions.
What does vitamin D do, exactly?
It’s essential for bone mineralization. Without vitamin D, your body won’t be able to do anything with the raw building blocks of bone, like calcium and magnesium.It improves insulin sensitivity and increases fat loss.It’s required for the production of testosterone.It prevents tooth decay.Our immune systems need vitamin D to function.It reduces systemic inflammation.It plays a role in protection against many (if not all) cancers.
And all you need is a little bit of sunlight.
So, folks, take off most your clothes and get your sun exposure. Go easy at first, since we haven’t been living outdoors and we probably aren’t ready for a full session, yet. Gradually increase your exposure by a few minutes at a time until you’re getting thirty minutes of full sun each day.
Oh, and sunblock prevents the creation of vitamin D, so go easy on it. If you’re going to use sunblock, apply it after you’ve already gotten your 20-30 minutes of sun exposure.
If you can’t find time to get sun, or you live in a place that gets very little, pop some vitamin D3. It’s almost as good as just getting it from the sun, and it’s a hundred times better than getting none at all.
@ejs1200 I think your argument is silly. What was the life span of our ancestors? How many got skin cancer? What was the ozone layer like back then? Are there perhaps other environmental factors that influence the rates of skin cancer?
Yes, vitamin D is good for you. But there is ample evidence that excessive sunlight does us harm. I see no evidence in your comment that sunblock is harmful. I'm pretty sure that truck driver got more than 20-30 minutes of sun on his face each day.
The sun isn't poisonous to most of us, and nothing in the article said anything about completely avoiding the sun at all cost. So I favor the results of scientific studies in today's environment over your common sense.
@ejs1200 100% agree. I was exposed to a lot of sun when I was a kid doing surf life saving - I got burnt a lot, so from the age of about 12 - 28, I would lather myself in suncream, or otherwise avoid the sun. If I forgot to apply sunscreen, I would burn red after just 10 minutes of exposure and be sore.
From 28 onwards I started reading and learning and going down the Paleo route. I started re-exposing myself to midday sun. At first just 5 minutes a side. I slowly have increased it to around 15 minutes on each side of my body.
I now feel great. My skin is super healthy, it never burns. I was out in the sun for over an hour a few weeks back and I didn't burn at all, I barely even tanned. Nowadays if I get no sun, I don't feel as good as I could.
One thing you forgot to mention is that the midday sun (uvb) also promotes skin health and actually protects AGAINST melanoma.
@scottrichardson @ejs1200 Absolutely correct Scott,, and the other thing that bothers me about this story is the trucker, is that photoshop or real? And if it is real is it an anomaly? Wouldn't every trucker out there have a split face as well? We'd have legislation requiring truckers to slather up before their trucks would start in no time.