Monday, January 29, 2007

Tanning Downside

skin_careUVA rays may make you tan, but they can also cause serious damage. That's because UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays. UVA rays can go all the way through the skin's protective epidermis to the dermis, where blood vessels and nerves are found. Because of this, UVA rays may damage a person's immune system, making it harder to fight off diseases and leading to illnesses like melanoma, the most serious (and deadly) type of skin cancer.

Melanoma can kill. If it's not found and treated, it can quickly spread from the skin to the body's other organs.

Skin cancer is epidemic in the United States, with more than 1 million new cases diagnosed annually. Although the numbers of new cases of many other types of cancer are falling or leveling off, the number of new cases of melanoma is growing. In the past, melanoma mostly affected people in their fifties or older, but today dermatologists see patients in their twenties and even late teens with this type of cancer. Experts believe this is partly due to an increase in the use of tanning beds and sun lamps, which have high levels of UVA rays.

Doctors also think that UVB rays play a role in the development of melanoma. That's because a sunburn or intense sun exposure may increase a person's chances of developing this deadly cancer.

Exposure to UVB rays also increases your risk of getting two other types of skin cancer: basal and squamous cell carcinoma.

The main treatment for skin cancers is excision — cutting the tumors out. Since many basal or squamous cell carcinomas are on the face and neck, surgery to remove them can leave people with facial scars. The scars from surgery to remove melanomas can be anywhere on the body, and they're often large.

Cancer isn't the only problem associated with UV exposure. UVA damage to the dermis is the main factor in premature skin aging. To get a good idea of how sunlight affects the skin, look at your parents' skin and see how different it is from yours. Much of that is due to sun exposure, not the age difference! UV rays can also lead to another problem we associate with old people: the eye problem cataracts./span>

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