Our View: UV exposure has risks

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, July 11, 2018

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.

Despite ongoing awareness about sun safety, a million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, and about 25 percent of Americans will get skin cancer during their lifetime.

Skin cancer is the second-most diagnosed form of cancer in 15 to 29 year olds.

Yet, many do not follow the basic precautions to protect against cancer and the other damaging effects of the sun and UV light.

July, a month filled with extreme heat and blazing sun, is fittingly marked as UV Safety Month in the U.S.

This month is dedicated to continuing awareness about the dangers of UV exposure and safety precautions that can be taken every day to prevent the dangerous outcomes.

“The main source of UV radiation (rays) is the sun, although it can also come from man-made sources such as tanning beds and welding torches,” according to the ACS. “Higher energy UV rays often have enough energy to remove an electron from (ionize) an atom or molecule, making them a form of ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation can damage DNA in the cells in our body, which in turn may lead to cancer. But because UV rays don’t have enough energy to penetrate deeply into the body, their main effect is on the skin.”

Most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. The most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell cancers, tare typically found on sun-exposed parts of the body. The risk of melanoma, a more serious but less common type of skin cancer, is also related to sun exposure, although perhaps not as strongly. Skin cancer has also been linked to exposure to some artificial sources of UV rays.

In addition to cancer, exposure to UV rays can cause other health problems. UV rays, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds, can cause sunburn. In some people, exposure to UV rays can cause a rash or a type of allergic reaction. Exposure to UV rays can also cause premature aging of the skin and signs of sun damage such as liver spots.

UV rays can also cause eye problems and weaken the immune system.

Here are some tips from the American Cancer Society to prevent the negative effects of UV exposure:

— If you are 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 and wear a hat to protect your head, face, and neck.

— Wear sunglasses that block UV to protect your eyes and the skin around them.

— Use sunscreen to help protect skin that isn’t covered with clothing.

— Do not use tanning beds or tanning booths.

— People who may be exposed to artificial sources of UV at their job should follow appropriate safety precautions, including using protective clothing and UV shields and filters.