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Basking in the warm summer sun might feel good, but ultimately, your health may suffer.

uring the summer, you probably spend most of your time outside. But whether you bake in the sun at the beach or simply catch some rays while you jog, picnic, or do errands, your health may pay a price. Too much sun exposure can increase your chances for skin cancer. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will eventually develop skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The good news is that you can take steps to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

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Sunlight and Skin Damage The skin shields the rest of the body from the sun’s rays. Ultraviolet (UV) light, although invisible to the human eye, is the component of sunlight that has the

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most effect on skin. UV light in small amounts is beneficial, because it helps the body produce vitamin D. However, larger amounts of UV light damage DNA (the body’s genetic material) and alter the amounts and kinds of chemicals that the skin cells make. The skin undergoes certain changes when exposed to UV light to protect against damage. The epidermis (the skin’s uppermost layer) thickens, blocking UV light. The melanocytes (the pigmentproducing skin cells) make increased amounts of melanin, which darkens the skin, resulting in a “tan.” The more sun exposure a person has and the fairer his skin, the higher the risk of skin cancers. The key to minimizing the damaging effects of the sun is avoiding further sun exposure; damage that is already done is difficult to reverse. Moisturizing creams and makeup help hide wrinkles. Chemical peels, alphahydroxy acids, and laser skin resurfacing may improve the appearance of thin wrinkles and irregular pigmentation. Deep wrinkles and significant skin damage, however, are unlikely to be reversed.

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Sunburn Sunburn results from a brief (acute) overexposure to UV light. The amount of sun exposure required to produce a burn varies with each person’s pigmentation and ability to produce more melanin.

The skin undergoes certain changes when exposed to UV light to protect against damage.

Sunburn results in painful reddened skin. Severe sunburn may produce swelling and blisters. Symptoms may begin as soon as one hour after exposure and typically reach their peak after one day. Some severely sunburned people develop a fever, chills, and weakness and on rare occasions even may go into shock

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