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Sun, summer and a healthy skin

Sun, summer and a healthy skin

Dr Francesca Valvo - Medical Director

27 Jun/17

Sunlight has many beneficial effects for the body but excessive exposure to sun rays may have negative effects. Why?

Without the sun there would be no life on Earth; however, excessive exposure to the sun can be harmful.

Ultraviolet rays UV-A stimulate tanning but they damage the elastic fibres in skin and they are therefore, the main cause of formation of wrinkles, something that worries women.

The UV-B rays, that activate the photosynthesis that makes plant grow, induce in the human being the production of vitamin D, useful for many organs and not sufficiently taken in the diet, and it is also mood-boosting. However, they are also the main cause of sunburn: excessive exposure to these rays is associated with the appearance of many skin tumour diseases. Melanoma, the most dangerous and insidious skin tumours, may originate from cells that produce melanin which gives colour to the skin. Its emergence may depend on excessive sun exposure and sunburn, especially during childhood, but it also depends on the hereditary predisposition in addition to the skin colour (light skin people are more at risk). Other most frequent tumours are basal cell carcinomas, or basal cell cancer, and the squamous cell carcinoma frequent in people that due to professional reasons (farmers, fishermen, etc.) are exposed to the the action of the ultraviolet rays. These are tumours that can be detected and surgically removed successfully.

How is the skin protected?

The only way to prevent the appearance of these skin tumours is the reduction of sun exposure together with the use of a sunscreen with a suitable protection factor. A sunscreen with a protector factor between 15 and 25 is enough to protect most of the people. Dark photo types may use a lower factor, while for light skins it is highly important to use a high protection factor. Always check that the cream is also anti UV-A and that is not due. Do not use it after a year the remaining residue since there might have lost its protective property.

Apply the cream before going out and again during the day and after bathing or sporting activities. Wear a cap, light clothes and sunglasses, with lenses that protect from at least 99% of the UV-A and UV-B rays. Apart from that, it is recommended to stay in the shade. Also, the excessive use of suntanning lamps and beds has been defined as carcinogenic and should be restricted.

Can the sun also damage the eyes? How are they protected?

Ultraviolet rays may also provoke tumours in the eyes, in rare occasions a squamous carcinoma of the cornea or of the conjunctival membrane, and it favours the cataract (degeneration of the lens that become increasingly opaque until blindness).

It should not be forgotten that the melanoma can be developed inside the structure of the eye that allows us to see, such as the retina.

The ocular melanoma is a rare but terrible illness that affects almost 350/400 patients a year in Italy. It is diagnosable in centres that are specialised in surgical treatment (enucleation of the eye) or conservative both of the eye and of the functions with the use of proton therapy.

At CNAO, radiation procedures are being fine-tuned for these patients who so far, have been forced to travel abroad to be treated and cured.

Proton therapy is indicated to treat ocular melanomas due to its spatial selectivity, which makes it possible to dispense a healing dose to the tumour volume while sparing surrounding healthy tissue and minimising side effects The results in terms of disease control, currently available in clinical literature, have shown a clear superiority of this technique compared to the conventional forms of photons radiation therapies. Nowadays, ocular melanoma is a reference case to using hadrontherapy, that is supported by the whole scientific community.

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