No doubt about it. Here comes summer and here comes the sun. This is the time of year to think about protecting ourselves against overexposure to natural ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), summertime is not the only time to be concerned about UV radiation, but it is necessary to protect against UV radiation and artificial UV radiation all year round. However, it is during the warm summer months when people head to beaches and pools that the risk for overexposure to UV radiation from the sun is very high.
Three Primary Types of UV Radiation
There are three primary types of UV radiation:
- UVA is not absorbed by the ozone layer and all of it reaches the earth and this can be dangerous to health.
- UVB is mainly absorbed by the ozone layer, although some of it does reach the surface of the earth.
- UVC is completely absorbed by the atmosphere and ozone layer and does not reach the earth.
Some UV Radiation is Necessary for the Body to Make Vitamin D
Some UV radiation is beneficial for people, as it helps the body to make Vitamin D. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends five to 15 minutes exposure to the sun two to three times a week. It is the overexposure that is dangerous.
Signs of Overexposure to UV Radiation
- Premature aging
- Skin cancer like melanoma and squamous cell cancer
- Eye diseases that can lead to blindness
Some Medicines and Cosmetics can Lead to Overexposure
Certain kinds of antibiotics, birth control pills, cosmetics and benzoyl peroxide products can increase the effects of overexposure to UV. Usually the antibiotics and birth control pills will carry a warning and for this reason it is important to always read the package insert. Cosmetics are much more of a problem, as they may not carry a warning about consequences of possible increased sun exposure. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended guidelines to cosmetic companies concerning products containing alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) and the risk for increased exposure to the sun.
Who is at risk for Skin Cancer
- People who spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned.
- Fair skinned people have less built-in protection against the sun.
- A family member or history of skin cancer in the family
- Seniors age 50 and older
Protection from UV radiation
- The number one protection is to stay in the shade, especially during the hours from 10 am to 3 pm.
- Wear clothes that cover arms and legs
- Wear a wide brim hat that should be big enough to shield the face, neck ears and head from the sun.
- Carry a sun parasol to protect yourself even more from the sun than by wearing a wide brimmed hat.
- Drink enough water when you are outdoors, as dehydration leads to the skin drying out and this can make the skin more vulnerable to develop into cancers.
- Wear sunglasses that are especially designed to protect against UVA and UVB radiation, especially the wraparound kinds.
- Wear sunscreen that is recommended for both UVA and UVB radiation with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
Artificial UV Radiation
The sun is not the only source of UV radiation and there are artificial kinds and most people may not even be aware of the fact that these items contain UV radiation such as:
- Indoor tanning beds
- Certain kinds of halogen, incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs
- Some kinds of lasers
- Mercury vapor lighting (often found in school gyms and stadiums)
Other Risks from the Sun and Heat
Summertime is also a time to be cautious about venturing out on high temperature scorching hot days when there is danger of dehydration, heat stroke and more. To read more about this see our blog post from August 24, 2018.
The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse New York
The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York, has a consultant dermatologist (skin doctor) available to their qualified medical staff.
It certainly pays to avoid overexposure to the sun especially as it can lead to dangerous disease conditions like skin cancer.