Summertime means more fun in the sun, but pay attention to your exposure time. Harmful UV rays from the sun can result in long-term skin damage, leading to other health issues such as skin cancer.

Kevin Dalby, Austin, Texas resident and professor with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Organic Chemistry, has been interested in the “why” of chemical reactions since he was a student at the University of Cambridge. His curiosity led him to his interest in the processes of cell signaling, and ultimately to cancer research. Dalby’s research areas include biochemistry, cancer, cell biology, chemical biology, drug discovery & diagnostics, and enzymology. Based on the evidence he has seen firsthand, Dalby goes into further detail of the problems that unfold from spending too much time uncovered in the sun. 

Problem #1: Premature Aging

Society stereotypes sun-kissed skin as a factor of beauty and attraction. However, acquiring a natural tan does quite the opposite to the health of your skin. When your skin darkens from the sun, that is evidence of your skin protecting itself from harmful ultraviolet rays. As your skin tans, its elastin and collagen tissue becomes more damaged, causing signs of early aging such as wrinkles, leathery skin, or dark spots. When the skin’s tissue burns, it sags due to its acquired fragility making it more difficult for it to bounce back as young skin does. With effects like these, sun damage to your skin is just as harmful as cigarette smoke. 

Problem #2: Actinic Keratosis

What is actinic keratosis? It is a description of lesions on the outer skin layer resulting from too much exposure to the sun and its damaging ultraviolet rays. Unfortunately, actinic keratosis is the first sign of skin cancer’s beginning stages, categorizing them as pre-cancerous. Ways to prevent actinic keratosis include staying out of the sun during peak sunlight hours (between ten in the morning to two in the afternoon), covering arms and legs with long sleeves and pants, wearing a hat or umbrella to hide face and ears from sunlight. Moreover, applying sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of thirty or higher every two hours is essential. Remember, if you can see your shadow on cloudy days, the sun is still reaching your skin. 

Problem #3: Cancer

Severe sun damage can cause skin cancer. There are three primary forms of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer and can be caused by excessive tanning or over baking in the sun. This cancer is prevalent among young women between the ages of eighteen to twenty-nine who use tanning beds. Seventy-five percent of all deaths caused by skin cancer results from melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are less dangerous than melanoma and take up ninety-five percent of all skin cancer cases. These types of skin cancers are very treatable when caught early.

About Kevin Dalby

Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin. He is studying the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health recognize Dr. Dalby’s efforts by supporting his research.

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