Sun Exposure and your Skin
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are an invisible form of radiation. They can penetrate your skin and damage your skin cells. Sunburns are a sign of skin damage. Suntans aren't healthy, either. They appear after the sun's rays have already killed some cells and damaged others. UV rays can cause skin damage during any season or at any temperature. They can also cause eye problems, wrinkles, skin spots, and skin cancer.
To protect yourself
- Stay out of the sun when it is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
- Wear protective clothing
- Wear wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection
- Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds
Check your skin regularly for changes in the size, shape, color or feel of birthmarks, moles and spots. Such changes are a sign of skin cancer.
The skin uses sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D, which is important for normal bone formation. But sometimes its ultraviolet light can be very detrimental.
Within the skin’s epidermal (outer) layer are cells that contain the pigment melanin. Melanin protects skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which can burn the skin, and over time, could reduce its elasticity and cause a person to age prematurely. Suntanning occurs because exposure to sunlight causes the skin to produce more melanin and to darken. The tan fades as these cells move toward the surface and are sloughed off.
Too much exposure to ultraviolet or UV rays can cause sunburn. UV rays penetrate the outer skin layers and pass into the deeper layers, where they can damage or kill skin cells. People who do not have much melanin and sun burn easily should protect themselves by covering up sensitive areas, wearing sun block, limiting their total exposure time, and limiting their sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Frequent and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays over many years is the chief cause of skin cancer. Examine skin regularly for development of suspicious growths or changes in an existing skin lesion. Early detection and treatment are key in increasing the cure rate for skin cancer.