UV Safety Awareness Month

By July 28, 2023Health Tips

July is Ultraviolet Safety Awareness Month. The sun is closer to us in the summer, and we all tend to spend more time in the sun this time of year. Exposure to UV radiation is a major risk factor for skin cancer, and it causes other skin damage as well. The good news is that you can enjoy outdoor activities and limit the damage to your skin by taking some simple protective measures.

What is UV radiation?
UV Safety Awareness MonthUV radiation is part of the energy that the sun produces. You can’t see UV light because it has shorter wavelengths than visible light, but your skin can feel it. UV radiation is also emitted by tanning beds.
There are two types of UV radiation that reach the earth, UVA and UVB. Both are proven to increase the risk of skin cancer. Here are some things you should know about each:
Facts about UVA:
  • Slightly less intense than UVB but penetrates your skin more deeply.
  • Can cause tanning or sometimes burning. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan”.
  • UVA is everywhere, accounting for up to 95% of the UV radiation reaching the earth.
  • These rays maintain the same level of strength during daylight hours throughout the year.
  • UVA can penetrate windows and cloud cover.
Facts about UVB:
  • More intense than UVA but only penetrates the outermost layer of the skin.
  • Causes tanning, sunburn, and blistering of the skin.
  • UVB intensity fluctuates. It poses the highest risk late-morning to midafternoon from spring to fall in temperate climates (greater timespans in tropical climates).
  • It can damage your skin year-round, especially at higher altitudes or on reflective surfaces, such as snow or ice.
  • UVB rays can be filtered and do not penetrate glass.
How does UV radiation change your skin?
Many people think that tanned skin makes you look healthy. In reality, it is a sign of skin damage from the sun, and it is not healthy at all. UV radiation damages the DNA in the outermost and deeper layers of your skin. Your body can repair some of the DNA damage in skin cells, but it can’t repair all of it. This damage builds up over time and causes mutations in the cells that can lead to malignant tumors.
UV radiation also damages skin fibers called elastin. When elastin fibers break down, your skin begins to sag and loses the ability to go back into place after stretching. Over time, this can lead to premature aging of the skin, which can include the following changes:
  • Thinning of the skin, easy bruising and tearing of the skin
  • Skin discoloration and skin spots sometimes called liver spots
  • Wrinkles
  • Dilated small blood vessels called telangectasias
Is there anything good about UV radiation?
Your body does need some UV light exposure and here’s why:
Vitamin D – When UV light hits the skin, processes inside the tissues start making vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for your body to function normally. The good news is that you don’t need to get a tan to get vitamin D from the sun. Your body will make all the vitamin D it needs for a day in half the time it takes to get a sunburn. For a person with light skin, 15 minutes a day of sun exposure can provide a day’s worth of vitamin D. For a person with dark skin, it could take a couple of hours. Frequent but short exposures to the sun’s rays are the best way to get your vitamin D without damaging your skin.
Next week, we will talk more about the cancers associated with sun exposure as well as how you can protect your skin from UV damage.
If you have any questions about UV safety, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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