Summer time sunshine is something many people look forward to. Many families pack up their cars, head down the shore, and set up shop on the beach for some fun in the sun. But when that sun starts beating down, we have to remember that too much of a good thing, including the sun, could be bad for your health. Keeping yourself and others protected from UV radiation is an important, and summer is the time you should be practicing those protective measures the most.
What are Ultra-Violet rays?
Ultraviolet rays are a type of light radiation produced by the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet or UV rays are divided by wavelength into three categories: UVA rays, UVB rays, and UVC rays. Their respective wavelengths are:
- UVA: 315-399nm
- UVB: 280-314nm
- UVC: 100-279nm
All are invisible to the human eye, and all UV radiation can damage the skin’s cellular DNA. However, UVC rays are entirely absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer, along with a good portion of UVB rays, therefore, not reaching our skin as often. This being said, the rays affect can be amplified during months where the ozone layer is weak, such as in April. UVA and UVB radiation can both affect health. Even though UVA radiation is weaker than UVB, it penetrates deeper into the skin and is more constant throughout the year.
How can Ultra-Violet rays harm you?
If exposed to UV rays for too long, you can damage your skin and other parts of your body, and become higher risk for long-term illnesses. Some common problems that are caused by over exposure include:
- Sunburn, a sign of short-term over exposure
- Premature aging and side effects, a sign of prolonged UV exposure
- Some oral and topical medicines, such as antibiotics, birth control pills, and benzoyl peroxide products, as well as some cosmetics, may increase skin and eye sensitivity to UV in all skin types
- UV exposure increases the risk of potentially blinding eye diseases
Including these medical problems, over exposure can lead to more serious health issues, including cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Typically, they form on the head, face, neck, hands, and arms do to the correlation of these body parts and their exposer to UV radiation. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to UV radiation. Anyone can get skin cancer, but is more common in people who:
- Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
- Have light-color skin, hair, and eyes
- Have a family member with skin cancer
- Are over the age of 50
How can you protect yourself?
Now, the sun is something that we can’t completely avoid without disrupting our normal lives, but we can avoid its dangers. With the right protective measures and safety habits, you can easily protect yourself from UV rays. Some ways to protect yourself include:
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday
- Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs
- Wear a wide brim hat to shade your face, head, ears, and neck
- Wear wraparound sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
- Use sunscreen, preferably with a sun protection factor of (SPF) 15 or higher
- Avoid indoor tanning.
Don’t be afraid to have your fun in the sun, but don’t forget to use this information to help protect yourself against the sun’s rays. Know that while UV light is a proven human carcinogen, skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, and all of the side effects of over exposure can be avoided through proper care and protection.
Stay safe and have fun!