Sun to blame for most skin aging on face and hands

Most Canadians, eight in 10, are unaware that repeated exposure to sunlight is the major contributor to skin changes seen on the face and back of the hands, with many believing this is largely due to natural aging.

And about half (53 percent) believe that features such as wrinkles and mottled skin are equally due to the sun and natural skin aging, according to a new Photoaging survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion for the Canadian Dermatology Association.

This is not the case. "On sun exposed areas, most skin changes that we see – as much as 80-90 percent – are caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Many people think that these changes are due to chronologic aging," says Dr. Cheryl Rosen, national director of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Sun Awareness Program.

Photoaging is actually a completely separate process from chronologic aging as UV rays alter the normal structures of the skin. Photoaging can be seen as brownish sun spots often called "liver spots", uneven skin colour, spider veins on the nose, cheeks and neck, as well as wrinkles. All of these make a person look older than they really are. Photoaging, unlike natural aging, is largely preventable.

Natural or chronologic aging features include fine lines, even skin tone and thinner skin later in life. Natural aging depends on genetics and time and is unchangeable.

The focus of the CDA’s 22nd National Sun Awareness Week campaign is photoaging – premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), primarily from the sun, but also from artificial UV sources.

Dermatologists are concerned that if people are unaware of how big a role the sun plays in skin aging, unprotected, repeated sun exposure will continue, which can ultimately lead to skin cancer, as well as photoaging.

"The best way to prevent wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin is to have a good sun protection regimen," Dr. Rosen recommends. "Be especially careful to protect the face, neck and back of the hands.

"People with fair skin who usually burn when out in the sun and those who get a lot of sun exposure through outdoor work or recreation are most at risk for photoaging," she adds.

The survey also showed about half of Canadians (53 percent) knew the common signs of photoaging although more women than men recognized these features.

When asked about sun protection measures to prevent photoaging, many Canadians said they would wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen (67 percent), sunglasses (66 percent), wear a hat (59 percent) and limit the amount of time spent out in the sun (57 percent).

However, only four in 10 (40 percent) would avoid tanning of any kind. "Too many people still believe a tan makes them look better. Perhaps knowing that being tanned also leads to wrinkling and other signs of chronic sun exposure will start to change this perception," says Dr. Rosen.

CDA’s National Sun Awareness Week runs from Monday June 7 to Sunday June 13, 2010. Dermatologists will be holding free, public skin cancer screenings and photoaging awareness events in various locations to promote sun awareness (please see Events and Media Contacts release). Skin scopes will be used at many events to show hidden sun damage. Please see photos attached.

Further information on photoaging is available at

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