It isn't every day that something from the New England Journal of Medicine goes viral on the Internet, but an image making the rounds has a lot of people talking.
Picked up first at Gizmodo, the image shows a 69-year-old man with sun-damaged skin—thickened and deeply creased—on half his face.
According to dermatologists Jennifer R.S. Gordon, M.D., and Joaquin C. Brieva, M.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago, the man drove a delivery truck for 28 years, and the continuous exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays through the left-hand window eventually prematurely aged that side of his face.
While moderate sun exposure is important for the body's production of Vitamin D and has other beneficial healthful effects, excessive exposure to UV rays are linked to 60-90 percent of melanomas, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
In 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, nearly 60,000 Americans were diagnosed with melanoma and 8,623 people died of the disease, according to the CDC. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
Protecting children from UV rays is particularly important. Sunburns during childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends that people take steps to limit exposure to harmful UV rays:
- Reduce time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the most hazardous time for UV exposure.
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear clothing to protect exposed skin.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible-
- Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
- Slip on a shirt,
- Slop on sunscreen,
- Slap on a hat, and
- Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them.