Sunlight: Top 10 Toxic and Therapeutic Effects on Skin


An estimated one in five people in the US will develop a skin cancer during their lifetime.  Melanoma is the most malignant type of skin cancer and has the fast rising incidence of any cancer in the US.  Sun exposure, a well-established risk factor for skin cancer, is the most preventable risk factor for this disease. 
While excess sun exposure is a risk factor for skin cancer, inadequate sun exposure also portends health risks.  According to a June 2007 study, not getting enough direct sunlight actually increases our chances of cancer by at least 70%. Why? Because our bodies need natural sunlight to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D.  Vitamin D is essential to keep our bones strong and healthy, and also plays an important immunologic role.  A weakened immune system resulting from Vitamin D deficiency leaves tissues and organs more susceptible to cancer formation.  In addition, researchers have speculated that the higher incidence of multiple sclerosis seen in the Northwest may be related to the predisposition Northwest natives have to Vitamin D deficiency.  Some experts also suggest that a heightened awareness of skin cancer and more use of sunscreen have led to an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. 
Concern about Vitamin D deficiency should not cause patients to omit sunscreen use.  A balanced approach to sun exposure is best to avoid the toxicities and reap the benefits.  A consultation with cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Daniel Levy, can help you identify your skin type, optimize your skin health and maintain sufficient vitamin D levels.

TOP 10 Skin Toxicities

Toxicity                                        Mechanism                 

1. Basal cell cancer                  UV-induced DNA oxidation, cell cycle dysregulation

Medical Spa Intervention: Skinmedica Environmental Defense SPF 30, routine skin exams

2. Squamous cell cancer                UV-induced DNA oxidation, cell cycle dysregulation

Medical Spa Intervention:  Skinmedica Environmental Defense SPF 30, routine skin exams

3.Melanoma                        UV-induced DNA oxidation, cell cycle dysregulation, genetic predisposition

Medical Spa Intervention:  Skinmedica Environmental Defense SPF 30, routine skin exams

4.  Exacerbation of Rosacea                  Facial vasodilation

Medical Spa Intervention:  Skinmedica Environmental Defense SPF 30, IPL

5. Brown “sunspots”                            Induction of melanin production

Medical Spa Intervention: IPL, Fraxel or FX

6.  Melasma                              Induction of melanin in epidermis and dermis by hormones and sun

Medical Spa Intervention: Fraxel, Triluma

7.   Wrinkles                                               Weakening of collagen and elastin in dermis

Medical Spa Intervention:   Topical retinol, Botox, Fillers, Fraxel, FX

8.   Broken capillaries on nose                Weakened dermal collagen, vasodilation, weakened vascular collagen

Medical Spa Intervention: IPL

9.  “Fever” blister on lip                             Heat stress induces oral herpes virus

Medical Spa Intervention:  Skinmedica Environmental Defense SPF 30, Oral valtrex

10. Excess sweating                            Rise in body temperature stimulates sweating

Medical Spa Intervention:                Botox,  Smartlipo MPX Laser treatment

TOP 10 Skin Benefits

Benefit                                                                     Mechanism

1. Vitamin D production                                Hydroxylation of a vitamin D precursor in skin
2. Enhanced mood                                         Increased serotonin production in brain
3. Enhanced circulation in skin and body              Vasodilation
4. Improvement of acne                            Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory effects
5. Improvement of psoriasis                   Suppresses immune cells which cause psoriatic skin inflammation
6. Antiseptic effect on viruses. bacteria                 Antiseptic thermal effect
7. Even skin complexion                           Even production and distribution of melanin
8. Moderate tan prevents burns               Epidermal melanin shields epidermis and dermis from excess UV
9. Clearance of neonatal jaundice              Stimulates metabolism of bilirubin
10. Enhanced fat metabolism                  Increased energy levels, increased circulation

Article by
Bellevue Dermatologic Surgeon