July brings awareness to Ultraviolet Radiation, also called UV. UV is a main source of skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation comes from sunlight and man made sources such as tanning beds. Even though UV ray’s are a small portion of the sun’s rays, they cause the most damage to the skin. The DNA of skin cells get damaged by UV Rays, skin cancers starts when the damage affects the genes that control skin cells growth.
There are three types of UV Rays. UVA Rays, which age skin cells and can possibly damage their is DNA. These are linked to long term skin damage like wrinkles, but can play a role in skin cancer. Tanning beds give off the most UVA. The next type are called UVB Rays, these have more energy than UVA rays. They cause direct damage to your skins DNA, and are the main cause of sunburns. Lastly UVC Rays, contain the most energy, but do not break through the atmosphere, and are not found in sunlight, not a cause of skin cancer. There are several factors that affect how UV Rays reach the ground, time of day(10 am-4pm), seasons(spring, and summer), cloud cover, and how the sun reflects off surfaces, snow, water, sand or pavement.
How do UV Rays affect children? Having your child play in the sun is perfectly fine for their health, but remember their skin is far more sensitive than yours. Within their first 18 years your child will get the most sun exposure, because they’re always out in the sun. Without proper protection such as sunscreen, a hat, or clothing that covers their skin, they are at risk for skin cancer later in life. Always put sunscreen on your child at least every 2 hours while they play in the sun, you should even apply a light SPF lip balm on their lips.
Back to the types of UV Rays, UVB rays are the most potent to children and adults. They also cause the most risk of skin cancer. The amount of exposure, you or your child gets depend on the level of protection you take, sunscreen, hat, glasses, etc. Long term UV exposure can cause skin aging, wrinkles, loss of collagen, dark patches, and even pre-cancerous skin changes. While getting sun is good for your health, remember, there are NO safe UV rays.