Climate Change Increases Risk of Skin Disease
Parts of the world are drying up while others are experiencing sea level rise and flooding. There are health impacts to these changes, including an increase in skin diseases and conditions.
With increased ambient temperatures there is an increase in skin cancer rates because of a direct interaction between heat and direct sunlight exposure, as well the indirect effect of spending more time in the sun.
Inflammatory skin diseases like eczema (atopic dermatitis) and pemphigus, an autoimmune blistering disorder, are worsened by climate change. The associated increase in natural disasters also exacts an emotional burden. This stress increases the risk of eczema, vitiligo, psoriasis flare-ups and other changes to the immune system. When someone is diagnosed celiac disease (an autoimmune disease of the gut), there is an association with increased risk of psoriasis (an autoimmune condition of the skin), there also appears to be an increase in diagnoses of food and environmental sensitivities due to changes in food consumption, exposure and pollen from growing seasons. The bacterial microbiome is associated with several conditions of the skin, and every organ in the body may also be impacted by climate change.
The warming Northern Hemisphere is seeing an increase in the incidence of infectious diseases from the tropics and sub-tropical regions such as Lyme disease (caused by a bacteria), hand, foot and mouth disease (caused by a virus), valley fever (caused by a fungus) and cutaneous leishmaniasis (caused by a parasite), as well as skin conditions spread by biting and stinging insects.
Climate change also has an impact on children that are still growing and have varied responses to exposure. Environmental pollution has increased the rate of asthma and respiratory diseases, allergies to pollen and other environmental irritants in children.
We can be proactive with some modifications in our food and beverage habits and skin care. Wear clothing and a broad rim hat that have sun protection factor (SPF of 30 or above). SPF 30 blocks nearly 97 percent of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. Use sunscreen products that are typically between SPF 30 to 50, even with the hat and clothing. Spending a lot of time in direct sunlight has an impact on skin aging and skin cancer regardless of how much protection we have.
Many people have inflammatory skin conditions, and treating the underlying diseases causing the inflammation under the care and guidance of a healthcare professional is important. Stress relief is important to reduce the risk of flare-ups. Seek the help of a licensed professional for psychological and emotional care.
Being educated about these environmental changes and the impact to our health is important. With knowledge comes the power to make the right choices for a better future for our planet and ourselves.
Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D. is a an entrepreneur, healthcare executive and founder and CEO of EpiLynx by Dr. Liia, a Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free and Medically Clean Skin Care and Cosmetics Brand.