UV Radiation & Your Skin

by Robyn McCarthy on February 17, 2023
UV Radiation & Your Skin

What is UV radiation?

UV radiation is part of the natural energy produced by the sun. On the electromagnetic spectrum, UV light has shorter wavelengths than visible light, so your eyes can’t see UV, but your skin can feel it. Tanning beds also emit UV radiation.

Two types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk for skin cancer:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength. It is associated with skin aging.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength. It is associated with skin burning.

While UVA and UVB rays differ in how they affect the skin, they both do harm. Unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB damages the DNA in skin cells, producing genetic defects, or mutations, that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. UV rays can also cause eye damage, including cataracts and eyelid cancer.

What is at stake?

UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen, causing basal cel carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These types of cancers often appear on sun-exposed areas of skin. Fortunately, when discovered and treated early, these common skin cancers are usually curable.

UV exposure that leads to sunburn has proven to play a strong role in developing melanoma, a dangerous type of skin cancer. Research shows that the UV rays that damage skin can also alter a gene that suppresses tumors, raising the risk of sun-damaged skin cells developing into skin cancer.

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