July is National Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month. The purpose of the month is to raise awareness of the dangers of UV radiation and spread the word about how important it is to protect everyone’s skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
Ultraviolet radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds. There are different types of UV rays, based on how much energy they have, and they are divided into 3 main groups:
– UVA rays have the least energy among UV rays. These rays can cause skin cells to age and can cause some indirect damage to cells’ DNA. UVA rays are mainly linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers.
– UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage the DNA in skin cells directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
– UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays. Fortunately, because of this, they react with ozone high in our atmosphere and don’t reach the ground, so they are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer.
Too much UV radiation can damage the genetic material (the DNA) in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.
It is not possible to avoid sunlight completely, but the American Cancer Society has some helpful information on how to protect yourself from UV rays. The most common and easiest ways to help ensure you’re not getting too much sun include:
– If you’re going to be outside, simply staying in the shade, especially during midday hours, is one of the best ways to limit your UV exposure from sunlight.
– Protect your skin with clothing that covers your arms and legs.
– Wear a hat to protect your head, face, and neck.
– Wear sunglasses that block UV rays to protect your eyes and the skin around them.
– Use sunscreen to help protect skin that isn’t covered with clothing.