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In moderation the sun can improve acne

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What is a recent information or discovery regarding the integumentary system?

4th June 2004

The integumentary system includes the skin and all the structures associated with the skin such as hair, nails, sweat glands and oil glands (known as sebaceous glands). The functions of the integumentary system include providing a protective barrier for the body to prevent the entry of potentially harmful things, a role in temperature regulation, the provision of sensory information to the brain, metabolic functions such as the synthesis of vitamin D, and excretion of waste materials through the sweat.

Research into the integumentary system therefore covers a wide range of topics. However, here is one area of recent research that you may find interesting. It is to do with the potentially damaging effect of the sun on the skin, particularly of children.

It feels very satisfying to have the sun shining on our skin. Somehow our skin feels and looks healthier when it has a bit of a tan. It is known that in moderation the sun's radiation can improve some skin disorders such as psoriasis, atopic eczema, acne and pruritus. However, the ultra violet component of the sun's radiation can also be harmful. We have known for a long time that prolonged exposure to the sun can speed up the aging of the skin and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. This is because the ultra violet radiation damages cells and the DNA they contain.

There are several types of skin cancer, some of which develop slowly and can be removed successfully, and one called malignant melanoma which spreads much more rapidly and is much more dangerous. Recent research has shown that if children experience severe sunburn they are particularly likely to develop skin cancer later, and the more frequent the burning episodes the greater the risk of the most dangerous form of cancer (Pfahlberg et al, 2000; Mancini, 2004). Of course, skin type is also a factor here, because a darker skin provides more natural protection against the harmful effects of ultra violet light than a lighter skin.

Knowing that excessive exposure to the sun is a problem for children, what can be done to reduce the risk? The best approach is prevention - for example, avoid exposing the skin suddenly to intense sunlight, particularly during the middle of the day when the sun is overhead and at its most powerful. Wear protective clothing such as a hat and sunglasses, try to build up a tan very gradually to produce natural protection against the sun's damaging effects, and apply a sunscreen to exposed skin. It is important to remember that the protective effect of sunscreens becomes less over time, and we must avoid assuming that if we put on sunscreen early in the day that it will protect for the rest of the day (van Praag et al, 2000).

During recent years there has been intensive research into the development of treatments that reduce the harmful effects of ultra violet radiation. The retinoids are particularly interesting as they enhance skin repair after ultra violet damage and probably have an anti-cancer effect (Oikarinen, Peltonen, and Kallioinen, 1991).


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very true, i think in moderation exposing your skin to unguarded (no sunscreen) sunlight in moderation can have a positive effect. You aren't going to get cancer 1 or 2 hours a day... the whole scare is from people who excessively sit out in the sun and TOAST their skin. in the summer my acne was very mild but it kicked up in the late summer / fall when i can no longer tan.

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Sun exposure is not so good for acne suffers on the mid and longterm.On the short term, the immune system starts to work on repairing the assault of free radicals and other damage caused by UV radiation so skin can temporarily improve its appearance. On the midterm, skin worsens because part of the "repair" process is to thicken the skin as a protection. Most acne sufferers already have skin that restricts the normal flow of oil and dead skin cells to the surface, so they don't need the skin to be more restrictive.Also lots of the medications used to treat acne make the skin more sun sensitive and more prone to burn and hyperpimentation.On the long term UV radiation weakens the collagen esp at the pore openings causing them to collapse onto itself making it very hard for the waste and oil to exit the pore.In the 70's it was common practice to use sunlamps to improve acne until the research showed it did more harm than good for acne prone skins.

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