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Sun Damage: The 5 W’s of UV Exposure


WRITTEN BY: CancerCenter
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Although it’s pleasant as you first experience sun warming your skin after the winter, over time, the sun causes damage to your body – including your immune system and particularly, your skin. Sun damage can make itself visibile in a number of ways, from premature aging and discoloration of the skin (sometimes called “sun spots”) to, in more severe cases, skin cancer and melanoma. Sun damage is caused by Ultraviolet radiation:

What is Ultraviolet Radiation?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. There are three types of UV radiation – UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UV rays are measured by a numbered index. Local news and weather channels will tell you what the level is expected to reach each day:

0-2: Low risk

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

3-5: Medium risk

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

Hat

6-7: High risk

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

Hat

Shade

7-10: Very high risk

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

Hat

Shade

11+: Extreme risk

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

Hat

Shade

Stay indoors, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Why Is It Important to be Protected?

UV Radiation, in all of its forms, can cause:

  • Melanoma and several other types of skin cancers
  • Sun damage that prematurely ages the skin
  • Premature aging
  • Eye damage
  • Altered function of the immune system

When Is the Most Dangerous Time for UV Exposure or Sun Damage?

Most of the day’s UV rays from the sun come between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and almost a third of the day’s rays come between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., according to the American Cancer Society. UV rays are dangerous throughout the year, but they are the strongest during the summer.

Where Does UV Radiation Come From and Where Should I Be Protected?

UV radiation comes mostly from the sun and tanning beds. You may also be exposed to UV radiation via special lamps or lasers that are used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis. Any part of your skin that is exposed to the sun should be protected by:

  • Wearing sunscreen with at least a SPF of 30
  • Seeking shade
  • Wearing protective clothing (hat and sunglasses)

Who Is most Affected by UV Exposure?

Everyone should be protected from UV exposure. Sunscreen should especially be applied to children and parents should also consider protectice clothing for little ones spending time in the sun. Babies younger than six months should be protected using hats and clothing and should be kept out of direct sunlight. Only use sunscreen on small areas that are exposed if shade or clothing is not available.

If you have a sun spot or mole that looks unusual, you may want to have it looked at to be sure it is benign. Please visit the UPMC CancerCenter website and request an appointment online or call 412-647-2811.

UPMC CancerCenter

CancerCenter

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