Men’s Health Month: Sun Screen and Sun Damage

Aging can be a significant contributing factor; however, the earth's ozone layer (the outer atmosphere), which has provided a protective sunscreen from the sun's harmful rays has been diminishing over the decades.

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The summer is here, so many of us wear short-sleeved shirts, t-shirts, shorts, bathing suits, and many social activities in the sun. However, often men, particularly men of color, don’t necessarily apply sunscreens and are not overly concerned about sun exposure.

Although the season calls for this, there is a reminder in the scientific and non-specialists literature that the sun that people over 50 years old were exposed to 40 years ago is not the same. In addition, people of all spectrums; pale skin to very dark skin, are finding that their skin is reacting to the sun in ways not the same as a child. 

Aging can be a significant contributing factor; however, the earth’s ozone layer (the outer atmosphere), which has provided a protective sunscreen from the sun’s harmful rays has been diminishing over the decades.

In some of the latest literature and posts, articles such as by Lennon (October 5, 2021) report the “Sunlight guidelines from 40 years ago may need revision.” She further mentions that “Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, accounting for around 80%Trusted Source of a person’s recommended daily allowance (RDA), but UVR from sunlight can also cause sunburn and skin cancer.” Another recent blog article by Thalassa (June 18, 2022) in Greece writes, “This is not the same sun we grew up with,” and points out that skin protection and coverage are more of a concern than ever.

However, there is increased awareness of skin cancers in people with higher percentages of melanin (a component of skin color). Gupta and associates (2016) report that “Though people of color (POC) are less likely to become afflicted with skin cancer, they are much more likely to die from it due to delay in detection or presentation.” Skin cancer is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage in people of color, making treatment challenging. Gupta also mentions that “the natural protection for “the outer skin layer of blacks has an intrinsic sun-protection factor (SPF) of 13.4 in contrast, light skin has an SPF of 3.3”.

The length of time in the sun, particularly for men over 50, should consider hats, thin fabric long-sleeved shirts, and sunscreens. Dr. Dugdale (September 7, 2021) also recommends that people, especially those who don’t have much melanin and sunburn easily, should protect themselves by covering sensitive areas, wearing sunblock, limiting total exposure time, and avoiding the sun between 10 am and 2 pm.

This article is not to be a conclusive research article. Instead, it is to heighten the awareness that the sun’s rays are more intense than decades ago, and all people have to be protective themselves from overexposure, risking many health concerns. The Narrative Matters!

References:

Blok, J. (August 14, 2020). A guide to sun protection for people with darker skin. Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/story/diy/sun-protection-dark-skin/

Dugdale, D. (September 7, 2021). Sun’s effect on skin. Medline Plus. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); https://medlineplus.gov/ency/anatomyvideos/000125.htm

Gupta, A. K., Bharadwaj, M., & Mehrotra, R. (2016). Skin Cancer Concerns in People of Color: Risk Factors and Prevention. Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention : APJCP, 17(12), 5257–5264. Skin Cancer Concerns in People of Color: Risk Factors and Prevention – PMC (nih.gov)

Lennon, A. (October 5, 2021). Sunlight guidelines from 40 years ago may need revision. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sunlight-guidelines-from-40-years-ago-may-need-revision

Thalassa, C. (June 18, 2022). Summer skin care 2022: This is not the same sun we grew up with.  Blog. https://medium.com/@cthalassa/summer-skin-care-2022-this-is-not-the-same-sun-we-grew-up-with-f24eef907956

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