Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a type of natural energy from the sun. Scientists know that prolonged exposure to UV rays increases a person’s risk of getting skin cancer.
Sunlight is essential for human health. When it hits a person’s skin, it triggers a reaction that makes vitamin D. Vitamin D
However, UV rays can damage the skin. According to the
This article explains UV radiation and how it can damage the skin. It also highlights steps people can take to reduce their risk and explains what symptoms to look out for.
UV radiation is a type of energy from the sun. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are three types of UV rays:
- Ultraviolet A, or UVA: This type makes up most of the UV radiation on Earth. These rays cause skin aging and can damage a person’s eyes.
- Ultraviolet B, or UVB: These rays cause sunburn and can damage skin cells’ DNA. UVB rays are responsible for most skin cancers.
- Ultraviolet C, or UVC: The earth’s atmosphere blocks these rays. However, scientists can recreate them. Their uses include UV sanitizing light bulbs and arc welding torches.
Prolonged UV exposure can cause cancer. The damage builds up over time.
According to the
Skin cancers start in the top layers of the skin. The names of various types of skin cancer reflect the cells they affect. These include:
- squamous cell carcinoma
- basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually occurs on a person’s arms, head, or neck — parts of the body that many people expose to sunlight. However, basal cell carcinoma can form anywhere on the body.
Melanomas begin in cells called melanocytes. When UV rays hit a person’s skin, they stimulate these cells to make melanin. Melanin is the skin’s pigment, and increased amounts darken or tan the skin.
Sunburn is usually the first symptom of UV damage. Even mild sunburn can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Tanned skin is also evidence of sun damage.
People with fair skin may be at greater risk of sunburn, but it can affect anyone.
Sunburn increases a person’s risk of getting skin cancer. Even one severe sunburn during childhood or adolescence doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
Repeated sunburns carry increased risks.
People can also get sunburned by using tanning beds or other indoor tanning aids that involve UV rays.
According to the
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas make up most cases. Both of these cancers are highly treatable if doctors detect and treat them early, as they tend not to spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma is a rarer form of skin cancer and is more likely to spread than other types.
Skin cancers usually start as unusual markings or changes in the appearance or texture of the skin. The
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people check their skin every month for symptoms of skin cancer, such as:
- moles that change shape or look different from others
- scaly patches
- sores that do not heal or sores that heal but then come back
- dome-shaped growths
- raised, itchy patches of skin
- areas that appear fragile and tend to bleed easily
- dark streaks under a finger or toenail
People with fair skin that burns easily are most at risk of skin cancer, but it can happen to anyone. UV exposure, either from sunlight or from indoor tanning aids, increases a person’s risk.
People who work outdoors or spend a lot of time outside have regular exposure to UV rays, which increases their risk of developing skin cancer.
Anyone can get sunburned, regardless of skin tone.
UV rays can damage the skin, even on cloudy days. Surfaces such as water, snow, sand, and cement can also reflect rays. UV rays are usually strongest in the middle of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear sunscreen on exposed skin every day. Broad-spectrum sunscreens block UVA and UVB rays and have a sun protection factor (SPF) rating. The higher the SPF rating, the more protection they give. However, sunscreens do not block all UV rays.
- Seek shade rather than full sun.
- Cover up with loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or skirts. Sunglasses help protect the delicate skin around the eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts. A wide-brimmed hat can protect a person’s head, neck, face, and ears.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
Not all skin cancers look alike. However, a new mole or a sore that will not heal can be a symptom of skin cancer. If someone is concerned about skin changes, they should consult a dermatologist.
- A for asymmetry: The shape of one half is not the same as the other half.
- B for border: The border is ragged, notched, or blurred. The pigment may spread and be noticeable in the surrounding skin.
- C for color: The coloring differs from one area to the next, with shades of black, brown, and tan. Some areas may also appear white, gray, red, pink, or blue.
- D for diameter: The marking has changed size — it is particularly of concern if it has gotten bigger. Most melanomas are larger than 6 millimeters or 1/4 inch wide, which is about the width of a pencil eraser. However, they can be smaller than this.
- E for evolving: The marking changes shape, size, or color over a couple of weeks or months.
Protecting the skin from UV rays is a daily challenge, but doing so reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Most people with basal or squamous cell carcinomas respond well to treatment, and deaths
Melanoma causes more deaths, as this type of cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
According to the
UV rays can damage the skin and may lead to skin cancer.
Sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer, but prolonged exposure without burning also damages the skin.
People can reduce their risk by wearing sunscreen, covering their skin, seeking shade, and avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day.