The short term results of unprotected exposure to UV rays are sunburn and tanning.
Long-term exposure causes prematurely aged skin, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, dark patches (lentigos, sometimes called age spots or liver spots), and actinic keratoses and actual skin cancers.
Actinic keratoses are small (usually less than 1/4 inch) rough or scaly spots. Usually they develop on the face, ears, back of the hands, and arms of middle-aged or older people with fair skin, although they can arise on other sun-exposed areas of the skin.
Although actinic keratoses are slow-growing and usually do not cause any symptoms, they sometimes turn into squamous cell cancer. Besides skin cancer, the sun’s UV radiation also increases the risk of cataracts and certain other eye problems, and can suppress the immune system.
Although dark-skinned people are generally less likely to get skin cancer than light skinned people, they are susceptible to cataracts and immune suppression.
Two main types of UV radiation reach the earth, UVA and UVB. UVB radiation is well known to cause damage to the DNA of skin cells. Skin cancers develop when this damage affects the DNA of genes that control growth and division of skin cells.
Recent research has found that UVA also contributes to skin cancer formation. Scientists now believe that both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin damage, including skin cancer. There are no safe UV rays.
Good sun protection methods include staying in the shade during the peak sun strength times, covering up, wearing sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat and using an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.
It’s important to realise that tanned skin is a sign of sun-damaged skin, not healthy skin. Also, in the long term, sun exposure is known to increase the risk of skin cancer.
So this summer enjoy the sunshine, but remember to keep exposure to dangerous UV rays to a minimum.