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The Risks of Catching Rays

It feels good to lounge in the sunshine, but it can hurt your health in the long run. Over the years, too much time outdoors can put you at risk for wrinkles, age spots, scaly patches called actinic keratosis, and skin cancer.


A tan may look nice, but that golden color is due to an injury to the top layer of your skin.

When you soak up the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, it speeds up the aging of your skin and raises your risk of skin cancer. To prevent damage, use a "broad spectrum" sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher.

Sunburn (First-Degree Burns)

There's no guesswork about whether you've got a sunburn. Your skin turns red, it feels hot to the touch, and you may have some mild pain.

It's called a first-degree burn when it affects only the outer layer of your skin. To get some relief from pain, take aspirin or ibuprofen. Try a cold compress, or apply some moisturizing cream or aloe.

Sunburn (Second Degree)

A second-degree sunburn damages deep layers of your skin and nerve endings. It's usually more painful and takes longer to heal.

You may have redness and swelling. If blisters form, don't break them. They might get infected.


The sun's rays can make you look old. Ultraviolet light in daylight damages the fibers in your skin called elastin. When that happens, it begins to sag and stretch.

Uneven Skin Tone

Too much sun causes some areas of your skin to appear darker, while others look lighter. It can also make permanent changes in small blood vessels, which gives you a reddish look in places.


You get these on areas of your body that are exposed to the sun. You'll notice them more in the summer, especially if you're fair-skinned or have light or red hair.

Freckles aren't bad for you. But some cancers in the earliest stages can look like one. See your doctor if the size, shape, or color of a spot changes, or if it itches or bleeds.

Melasma (Pregnancy Mask)

This shows up as tan or brown patches on your cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. It's common among women who are pregnant, but men can get it too.

It may go away after your pregnancy ends, but you can also treat it with prescription creams and over-the-counter products.

Use sunscreen at all times if you have melasma, because daylight can make it worse.

Age Spots (Solar Lentigines)

These pesky brown or gray areas aren't really caused by aging, though more of them show up on your body as you get older. You get them from being out in the daylight. They often appear on your face, hands, and chest.

Bleaching creams, acid peels, Retin-A products, and light treatments can make them less obvious. They don't harm your health, but check with your doctor to make sure they're not something more serious, like skin cancer.

Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis)

These red, brown, or skin-colored patches are small and scaly. You get them from being out in the daylight too much. They usually show up on your head, neck, or hands, but they can also appear on other parts of your body.

See your doctor, because if they're not treated they can sometimes turn into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Actinic Cheilitis (Farmer’s Lip)

This usually appears on the lower lip, and you may have scaly patches, dryness and cracking, or swelling.

The sharp border-line between your lip and skin may also disappear.

Get this checked by your doctor. It may turn into squamous cell carcinoma if it's not treated.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This type of skin cancer may show up as a firm red bump, a scaly growth that bleeds or gets a crust, or a sore that doesn't heal. It most often happens on your nose, forehead, ears, lower lip, hands, and other areas that get a lot of sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma can be cured if you get treated early.

Bowen Disease

This is a type of skin cancer that's on the surface of your skin. Your doctor may also call it squamous cell carcinoma "in situ."

Unlike "invasive" squamous cell carcinoma, Bowen disease doesn't spread to the inside of your body. It looks like scaly, reddish patches that may be crusted.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common form of skin cancer, and it's the easiest to treat.

Basal cell carcinoma spreads slowly. The tumors can take on many forms, including a pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on the ears, neck, or face.

A tumor can also appear as a flat, scaly, flesh-colored or brown patch on your back or chest, or more rarely, a white, waxy scar.


It's not as common as other types of skin cancer, but it's the most serious. Possible signs include a change in the way a mole or colored area looks.

Melanoma can affect the skin only, or it may spread to organs and bones. It can be cured if you get early treatment.


This is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. It's painless, but it may cause foggy vision, glare from light, and seeing double. You can help prevent cataracts by wearing a hat and sunglasses when you're in the sun.

Shun the Sun

The best way to avoid sunburn, wrinkles, skin cancer, and other damage is to stay out of the daylight, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, when the sun's rays are strongest.

If you need to be outside, use sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover up your skin with clothing.

If you see any changes to a mole or you spot a new growth or a sore that won't heal, see your doctor right way.

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Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 06, 2015

Do You Have Sun-Damaged Skin?


Picato® (ingenol mebutate) gel, 0.015%, 0.05% is prescription medicine used on the skin to treat actinic keratosis.

Important Safety Information

Do not use Picato® gel if you are allergic to ingenol mebutate or any of the ingredients in Picato® gel. There have been reports of serious allergic reactions (hives, itching, flushing and swelling of the lips or tongue, trouble breathing or wheezing, chest tightness and dizziness or passing out) in patients using Picato®. The frequency of these events or their relationship, if any, to treatment with Picato® is unknown. If you experience any such symptoms, discontinue Picato® immediately and seek emergency medical help.

For use on the skin only. Picato® can be applied to a contiguous skin area of approximately 25cm2 (5 cm x 5 cm). Do not use Picato® in, around, or near your eyes, mouth, lips, or vagina. Eye problems, including severe eye pain, swelling or drooping of your eyelids, corneal burn, redness, swelling and irritation inside the eye, or swelling around your eyes can happen if Picato® gel gets in your eyes. To avoid getting any of the Picato® into or around the eyes, it is important that you wash your hands well with soap and water after applying Picato® gel and be careful to keep Picato® gel on the treated area from coming into contact with your eyes. If you accidentally get Picato® gel in your eyes, flush them with large amounts of water and get medical care as soon as possible.

Reports of hypersensitivity reactions (anaphylaxis and allergic contact dermatitis) and herpes zoster (shingles) have been received during post approval use of Picato®.

Severe skin reactions in the treated areas on the face/scalp and body/arms/legs, including redness, flaking or scaling, crusting, swelling, blisters, pus, ulcers or breakdown of your skin can happen after applying Picato®. You should not use Picato® gel until your skin has healed from other treatments or surgeries. The most common side effects with Picato® gel on the face and scalp (≥2%) include skin reactions in the treatment area (94%), pain at the treatment area (15%), itching at the treatment area (8%), infection at the treatment area (3%), swelling around your eyelids (3%), and headache (2%). The most common side effects with Picato® gel on the body, arms and legs (≥2%) include skin reactions in the treatment area (92%), itching at the treatment area (8%), skin irritation at the treatment area (4%), nose and throat irritation (2%), and pain at the treatment area (2%).

Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Picato® gel can harm your unborn baby.

It is also not known if Picato® is safe and effective for the treatment of actinic keratosis in children less than 18 years of age

Click here for full Prescribing Information, or call 1-877-494-4536.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA at or 1-800-FDA-1088, or LEO Pharma Inc. at 1-877-494-4536, and select option 1.