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Skin Protection: Sunscreen prevents damage of UV rays

26 Jul 2013 | Lance Cpl. Paul S. Martinez

Summertime is an ideal time for many to spend more time outdoors and traveling. The days are longer and the air is warmer, but the sunlight is also stronger. All hands aboard the Combat Center are advised to take safety measures to protect against potential health risks.

Specifically, it is the prolonged exposure of the intense ultraviolet, or UV, rays of the sun that cause negative effects on the skin (and with it, immune system). Such phenomena include sunburn, premature skin aging, and in the most serious cases, skin cancer.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey S. Sorensen, M.D., family medicine physician, Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, ultraviolet rays are a form of the sun’s radiation, and cause a genetic mutation that damages the skin’s cellular system.

There are actually two types of ultraviolet rays: ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B.

UVA rays are the more prevalent of the two, making up 95 percent of all of the sun’s radiation that reaches Earth. UVA rays deeply penetrate the skin and prolonged exposure can cause skin aging, wrinkles and skin cancer.

UVB rays are less dominant than UVA, but more physically damaging to the skin’s superficial layers. This makes exposure to it responsible for red skin and sunburn.

Fortunately, there are very simple measures that can be taken to avoid the risks.

“Minimize sun exposure and avoid going out between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” said Sorensen. “Those times are when the sun is brightest.”

Lance Cpl. Kayla McElhone is among the Marines that are actively spending time outdoors, whether it is during travel or on base.

“I went to Long Beach and toured around the travel sections,” McElhone said.

Fortunately for McElhone, she is always proactive about spending time outdoors and wears sunscreen to protect herself.

“I put it on whenever I know I’ll be outside for long periods of time, whether it’s the range or at the pool,” McElhone said.

McElhone has felt and seen the harsh effects it can have on those that fail to prepare for outdoor activities in sunlight.

“It’s painful, and after a few days your skin will start to peel,” McElhone said.

Children must be especially protected while outdoors during the day because their skin is more vulnerable than the average adult.

“Children younger than six months are not recommended to be out,” said Sorensen.

Melanin is a substance that gives human skin its natural color. People with darker skin have higher levels of melanin, while people with lighter skin have less.

Individuals with dark skin have an increased production of melanin. The high amount protects against UV rays and sunburn much better than someone with less melanin.

Due to this, some may feel it is unnecessary to wear sunscreen, but don’t be fooled.

Sunscreen is readily available, and some are even water-resistant, providing a safe route for those that are intent on swimming.

“I tell people to reapply their sunscreen every two hours,” said Sorensen.

Many people aboard the Combat Center seek the enjoyment of spending time in the great outdoors, whether it be at the beach or park, but they must be prepared at all times. Sunscreen will quickly become an essential tool for your health.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms