Most individuals know that the rays from the sun can damage skin and cause sunburns and potentially cause skin cancer. However, researchers are still working to gain a better understanding of the effects of both UVA and UVB rays (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014). UV stands for ultraviolet light and UVA and UVB are categories of ultraviolet light (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014). Ultraviolet light is not visible to the naked eye, but rays of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB, can penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and cause skin damage (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014).
UV radiation causes mutations of your skin’s genetic makeup that can cause both melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and non-melanomas which are various forms of skin cancer including basal cell carcinoma (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014). UVA rays account for about 95% of UV radiation and penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays that can cause skin cancer as well as skin wrinkling (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014). UVB rays cause more superficial damage to the skin and are mainly responsible for sun burning (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014).
In order to prevent damage from UV radiation, it is important to adopt preventative behaviors all year round, not just in the summer (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2014). Most people don’t bother wearing sunscreen in the winter or if there is cloud coverage or overcast skies, but UV rays can penetrate the skin in those conditions (CDC, 2014). Roughly between 9am and 4pm are the times of day where UV exposure is high (CDC, 2014). Wear sunscreen with at least SPF (Sun Protective Factor) 15 or higher (CDC, 2014). It is also a good idea to wear lotion or moisturizer with SPF every day to reduce the effects of continued UV exposure that can cause wrinkling and skin cancers.
Some people wonder if tanning beds or other forms of indoor tanning are considered safe or offer less UV exposure than the sun. Indoor tanning devices contain bulbs that produce UVA and UVB rays at various rates depending on the age and type of bulb (CDC, 2014). In the interest of preventing skin cancer and other forms of skin damage it is not advised to use tanning beds or other indoor tanning devices (CDC, 2014). Indoor and outdoor exposure to UV rays share the same risks to your skin, one is not safer than the other. Using sunscreen while outdoors year round and avoiding tanning beds are the best ways to prevent premature aging and reduce the chances of skin cancer. If you have had sun exposure in the past, even as a young child, you may want to contact a dermatologist to determine if there are any concerns regarding the condition of your skin (CDC, 2014). If you have a family history of skin cancer, are light skinned, or have a history of burning and regular sun exposure, contacting a dermatologist can help you determine if you have any negative effects from sun exposure or may have negative effects in the future (CDC, 2014). For more tips on how to decrease UV exposure visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm
Centers for Disease Control (2014). What are the risk factors?Retrieved from
Skin Cancer Foundation (2014). Understanding UVA and UVB. Retrieved from
Kacey Sebeniecher is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Health Studies with an emphasis in higher education at Texas Woman’s University and plans to graduate in the fall of 2014. She currently serves as a health educator at The University of Texas at Dallas and received an undergraduate degree in Health Promotion from Oklahoma State University in 2009. Kacey is focused on educating college students on healthy lifestyle behaviors and is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of students both while they pursue their education and after they graduate.
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