Moderation: A Word About Our Friend the Sun
It’s great to lead an active life in the Sun. Like all good things we all know that too much Sun can be bad for you. If you ever suffered a bad sunburn you know the effects of too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Excessive UV radiation ages the skin but can also cause serious health problems, such as skin cancer, cataracts and other eye damage as well as the general weakening of the Immune System.
Q. What are UVA and UVB rays?
A. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays
1. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and 2. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays (which pass through window glass) penetrate deeper into the dermis, the thickest layer of the skin. UVA rays can cause suppression of the immune system, which interferes with the immune system’s ability to protect you against the development and spread of skin cancer. UVA exposure also is known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin such as wrinkling and age spots. The UVB rays are the sun’s burning rays (which are blocked by window glass) and are the primary cause of sunburn. A good way to remember it is that UVA rays are the aging rays and UVB rays are the burning rays. Excessive exposure to both forms of UV rays can lead to the development of skin cancer.
The United States Department of Health & Human Services has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).
Children and teenagers in particular need Sun protection since too much Sun exposure when young may contribute to skin cancer later on in life.
While 1 in 5 Americans are affected by skin cancer Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. You can still have fun in the Sun and decrease your risk of skin cancer simply by:
Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Look for the AAD SEAL OF RECOGNITION® on products that meet these criteria.
Wear UV protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and umbrella where possible. Protect your sensitive ears, neck and scalp.
Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the Sun’s rays are strongest between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. Only “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day Sun”. Remember if your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
Use extra caution near concrete, water, snow and sand as they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may also include vitamin D supplements. Don’t seek more Sun exposure.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the Sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer as well as increase wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, consider using “spray tan” cosmetics or a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Check your birthday suit. Examine all of your skin regularly. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist immediately. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.
*American Cancer Society. 2008 Cancer Facts and Figures. www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/2008CAFFfinalsecured.pdf
Robinson, JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection