Sunshine, Skin Ageing & Cancers

by Dr. Walt Taylor

The sun is vital to our planet, our food supply, and many other aspects of our lives —but it’s a mixed blessing. Our relatively clean air increases our exposure to ultraviolet light, and reflection off water or snow, magnifies the effect. Sunburn, and any tanning, age the skin and contribute to premature wrinkling and increased skin cancer risk.

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is particularly associated with a history of sunburns at a young age. Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are less likely to be fatal, but still can be locally invasive and troublesome. Some worrisome skin cancer signs include an enlarging lesion, an irregular border, asymmetry, and black or irregular color. If in doubt, check it out with a physician. Many communities have free skin cancer screenings yearly. Or if you’re in the office, ask the doctor to look you over —especially your back, and areas of your body you can’t see.

Prevention is important of course. Wear a hat—preferably one that protects your ears. Long sleeve shirts and long pants are helpful and of course use sunscreen on exposed areas including your feet. A sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above is best. Remember to reapply it every 2-4 hours—especially in the middle of the day—and when you’re getting wet on the river.

FYI we offer free skin cancer checks at various events to current professional guides working in Grand Canyon. Keep your eyes on our Current Events box for more info on this exciting new program!