Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What is Ultraviolet Radiation?
What to Know About Ultraviolet Radiation
While skin cancer can develop for various reasons, ultraviolet radiation is often the main culprit. But what is ultraviolet radiation and how does it lead to skin cancer? Let’s learn a little bit about UV radiation and its effects on the body.
What is Ultraviolet Radiation?
We always hear about how dangerous ultraviolet radiation is, but what exactly is it? UV radiation is the electromagnetic radiation that emits naturally from the sun and other artificial sources like tanning beds. There are three main types of ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun; ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC). UVC rays are completely absorbed by the ozone layer and have no effect on us. UVA and UVB rays, however, penetrate the ozone layer and reach down to earth. UVA makes up 95% of the rays that rain down from the sun and are often the cause of wrinkles and other cosmetic skin conditions. While UVA rays aren’t as harmful as UVB rays, they can still cause certain types of skin cancer. UVB rays make up the remaining 5% and are the most harmful to our skin. UVB rays are the main culprit of serious types of skin cancer.
When these rays reach us, the UV radiation is absorbed by our skin and penetrates just below the surface. With constant absorption of this radiation, our skin becomes susceptible to ionizing radiation. This process occurs when the radiation contains enough energy to rip away electrons from atoms. It is this reaction that mutates our DNA and opens the door for cancer cells to develop.
How does exposure happen?
The harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation happen when an individual is overexposed to it. Sunlight is the most common way a person becomes overexposed. We all naturally love sunlight. Sunny days are often better than cloudy ones, but unfortunately, we do not take the necessary precautions needed to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Many of us spend hours upon hours out in direct sunlight without any protection, allowing our bodies to soak up the unfiltered ionizing radiation.
Artificial radiation like tanning beds and sun lamps is another way people become overexposed to ultraviolet radiation. Achieving a perfect sun-kissed glow via UV rays can come at a hefty price. Again, frequent tanners don’t apply proper protection and allow themselves to be baked by ionizing radiation. Even if protection is used, exposing yourself to the UV rays too often can have the same effect.
Preventing Skin Cancer
Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can be completely and easily avoided. Simply refrain from using tanning beds frequently and limit your time in direct sunlight.
Also, do not underestimate the power of sunblock. No matter the time of day, time of year, or weather, whenever you are planning to go outside be sure to apply a liberal amount of sunblock. Sunblock is designed to repel the harmful rays that would otherwise penetrate your skin.
You should also wear protective clothing like reflective gear, brimmed hats, and sunglasses.
If you are in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and want more information on skin cancer, our experts at The Dermatology Group are ready to give you advice, resources and treatment options if necessary. Give us a call today!