There is no way to avoid sources of radiation if you live on planet earth. From the ultra-violet (UV) radiation we’re exposed to from the sun to cosmic, micro- and other forms of radiation – we encounter small and manageable radioactive doses as a part of daily life.
Fortunately, a little education and some basic, routine precautions will protect you from any harmful effects of UV radiation – including cancer – so you can enjoy the health benefits of the great outdoors without worry or stress.
What is UV Radiation?
While sun beds and tanning salons produce manufactured UV light, the large majority of UV radiation we encounter comes to us via sunlight. While they make up only a very small amount of the sun’s rays, UV rays do the most damage to unprotected human skin. In fact, their radiation exposure is considered ionizing, meaning it negatively alters our skin cells’ DNA.
UV rays are divided into three main categories:
- UVA Rays: Typically, UVA rays are the ones that contribute most to skin cell damage that leads to aging – i.e. wrinkles and minor sun spotting. Experts also think that intense exposure – like the larger-than-sun-power doses of UVA encountered at tanning beds – put you at higher risk for skin cancer.
- UVB Rays: These rays have more energy than UVA rays. The damage the skin cells via direct contact, so you can blame the UVBs the next time you get a nasty sunburn. Overtime, repeat skin cell damage affects the DNA, which damages the genes that guide healthy cell regeneration, and this causes skin cancer. For some, just a few bad sunburns as a child can lead to skin cancer as an adult.
- UVC Rays: These are a non-entity for us because although they have more energy than the other two, they are a source of cosmic radiation that is filtered from our planet’s surface by the atmosphere.
Most medical professionals agree that there is no such thing as a “safe” UV ray. Therefore, it’s your job to take adequate precautions.
Use the Principles of Radiation Protection to Prevent Skin Cancer
Because UV rays are a form of radiation, the Principles of Radiation Protection are just as relevant to humans outdoors on a sunny day as they are for anyone who works in a radioactive career. The three principles are:
- It should do more good than harm. Your skin should only be exposed to UV rays when it will do more good than harm. For example, you’re getting outdoors for some exercise and having a good time with yourself, family and friends. On the flip side, if you want to take a nap, you’re better off getting out of the chaise lounge and heading indoors to a couch or bed to minimize exposure.
- You should limit the amount of time you’re exposed. In most cases, peak sun exposure (UV radiation exposure) is from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Therefore, it’s best to spend time outdoors before or after these peak hours, and to limit the amount of time you’re exposed to the UV rays if you are outdoors during those hours.
- Try to limit your radiation dose. If you are spending a fair amount of time in the sun, do your best to limit exposure to reasonable doses. While a dosimeter isn’t necessary, you can notably limit your UV radiation dose by covering up with long sleeves and pants, wearing a hat with an ample brim and trying to stay in the shade. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also protective layers against radiation.
Don’t forget that most UV rays can go right through cloud layers, and water and snow can reflect and magnify their effect. Interestingly, cancer isn’t the only problem UV rays cause. Studies show that UV rays increase your risk of developing cataracts and other vision problems, and they can also suppress the immune system.
The team here at Lancs Industries wishes your family a safe, happy and UV protected summer so you minimize your chances of developing skin cancer.
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