A study from Australia has found that sun exposure during a person’s first 18 years is the most critical for how their skin ages and their risk of cancer as they grow older.
The study examined 180 people from ages 18 to 83, using an ultraviolet camera to measure skin damage normally invisible to our eyes. The scientists also looked at hyperpigmentation as a measure of sun damage, and wrinkles to measure skin aging.
That data revealed that the amount of sun damage we receive when we are younger has a more profound effect on our skin—both in terms of aging and cancer risk—than when we are older.
The conclusion of this research is that sun protection is especially important when you are a child and teenager. The effects of skin damage from ultraviolet light before age 18 primarily show up later in life, sometimes decades later. This means that sun damage you sustain in your early years will affect your skin quality at a later age, as well as your risk of skin cancer.
We are, of course, still susceptible to skin damage from ultraviolet light at any age, so keep using sunscreen now matter how old you are.
It should be noted that UVA and UVB light, which lead to skin aging and increase the risk of skin cancer, are present in tanning beds as well. This is one of the major reasons behind the recent moves to ban the use of tanning beds by minors.
- Queensland University of Technology. “Cancer-causing skin damage is done when young.” ScienceDaily, 9 May 2012. Web. 14 Sep. 2012.