Playing tennis adds quality of life by keeping us fit, maintaining our mental sharpness and enjoying competition and the social component that is naturally part of the game. However, the chronic sun exposure can take its toll….there’s always a trade-off but there are things you can do to prevent the ill-effects of the sun such as skin cancers and photoaging.
What causes sun damage?
Ultraviolet radiation A and B (UVA and UVB) play the biggest part causing sun damage. UVA/UVB are wavelengths penetrate our skin cells and damage our DNA: the code that programs duplicating our next skin cell. Any glitch in this program causes the progression of altered skin cells, which can lead to precancers and skin cancers. In addition, it breaks down skin collagen causing photo-aging and thinning of the skin. UVB is the burning ray causing sunburns and can lead to basal cell carcinomas and melanomas. UVA is has a longer wavelength penetrating deeper into the skin and can cause squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas as well as photo-damage, such as brown spots, thin skin, and wrinkles.
Three main factors UVR affect the skin:
- Skin type
Dark skin individuals and those having the ability to tan easily have a built-in sunscreen mechanism. Melanin is brown pigment created by melanocytes (cells in the skin) shielding our DNA. Fair skin individuals have a lighter pigment that does not protect our DNA as well. Therefore, the radiation penetrates the skin cells unimpeded striking the DNA and causing damage. However, dark skin individuals can also get skin cancers and become photo-damaged with too much sun.
The long-term effect of sun damage starts to reveal itself in our late 30s and really shows up in our 40s. When we’re young our immune system is able to repair the damage, however, north of 40, our immune system starts its downward trend increasing our risk for cancer. No one escapes aging; keeping fit and leaving a healthy lifestyle definitely helps.
- Sun’s effect on immunosuppression
Our skin is our body’s front-line protective barrier and has an impressive immune system in place. Ultraviolet radiation suppresses this immune system through a series of reactions increasing the ease of DNA alteration, in turn, increasing our risk of skin cancer. This is one reason why many skin cancers pop up after the age of 40: previous sun damage and continued sun exposure.
How to prevent sun damage.
We cannot change our skin type or our age, but we can protect our skin with sunscreens or physical barriers, such as protective clothing. Long-sleeves, a wide brim hat and if obsessive enough, long loose pants!
Don’t forget the hands!
One part of the body difficult to cover, with a high incidence of precancers and skin cancers, is the hands; sunscreen sweats off or migrates to the palm causing racket slippage and wearing a full glove is just unreasonable.
As a dermatology clinician and avid tennis player, the development of a palmless sun protective glove solves this problem. Physical sun protective UPF 50 stretch fabric is used to cover the back of the hand allowing mobility and comfort while maintaining one’s natural tennis racket grip while on the court.
Now that you’re covered, go play tennis!
About the author:
Patricia Ferrer is a physician assistant specializing in dermatology for Dyson Dermatology, PLLC in Green Valley, Arizona. She is passionate about dermatology and preventative healthcare and involved with health-related charities.
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