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Effects of sunlight on your skin

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:49 pm
The sun can have a number of adverse effects on the skin, and the lighter your skin, the more severe these effects are likely to be. Both the UVA (U-V-A) and UVB (U-V-B) portions of sunlight contribute to photoaging, or premature aging caused by UV (U-V) light. It's generally believed that most wrinkles that appear before age 50 are due to sun exposure. This occurs because UV light disrupts the fibers known as collagen (CAWL-uh-jihn) and elastin (eh-LASS-tihn) that lend support and elasticity to the skin. In response, your skin produces special enzymes in an effort to reshape the collagen and repair the damage. However, the new collagen fibers are laid down in uneven patterns. When this process happens over and over, the malformed collagen leads to wrinkles. Sun damage also contributes to age spots, freckling, and rough, scaly lesions known as actinic keratoses (ac-TIHN-ihk kehr-ah-TOH-seez). Of even greater concern is sunlight's role in causing skin cancer. Though experts disagree on the exact relationship between UV light and skin cancer, it's known to be a major risk factor, probably because it causes genetic mutations within skin cells. Sun damage is cumulative, meaning that it adds up over time. Therefore, it's important to protect your skin every day, even when you're just going out for a few minutes.
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