The Effects of UV Radiation on the Human Body

The media is flooded with information about the need to wear sunscreen but few people understand the science behind those warnings or the consequences of ignoring them. Ultraviolet radiation has been shown to contribute to all three types of skin cancer:
  • photoaging of the skin (including wrinkling, pigment changes, and sagging);
  • photosensitivity causing rashes and inflammation;
  • and eye damage including partial blindness and cataracts.
There is new research which indicates that ultra-violet radiation may in fact take away some of the bodies natural immunity in subtle and specific ways.


Skin cancer, sunburn, pigment spots, rashes, cataracts, retina damage, and wrinkles have all been linked to exposure to ultra-violet radiation. While scientists work on ways to repair this damage, the best possible defense is prevention. It is never too late to start protecting your skin and eyes from UV damage. Ultra-violet screening techniques and limiting sun exposure can prevent further damage and in some cases the damage may be reversible with proper protection. Living in the dark would be as unhealthy to mental well-being as basking in the sun is to the skin and eyes. Using common sense and taking advantage of the ultra-violet screening techniques available will help protect you and your family from the damage caused by the sun's UV rays.

Protection from UVB
  1. Glass and some forms of plastic glazing materials screen UVB.
  2. Wear protective clothing. Fabric should be of a tight weave. T-shirts offer little protection and have an SPF of about 6. Special UV clothes are available.
  3. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Use it year around - remember clouds only screen 20% of the UV!
  4. Stay out of the sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  5. Wear a wide-brimmed hat. Baseball hats do not protect the neck and ears.
  6. Sunglasses will screen most UVB because they are glass or plastic. Choose the wrap-around style or ones with side shields.

Protection from UVA
  1. Have ultra-violet screening film installed on your vehicle - glass does not screen UVA. For maximum protection replace every 5 years
  2. Wear protective clothing.
  3. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that screens into the UVA. Any sunscreen which blocks any amount of the UVA may be called "broad spectrum". Products with oxybenzone block some of the UVA spectrum. Look for a sunscreen with avobenzone for improved UVA protection. Remember, the SPF number only refers to UVB protection. Sunburn protection does not mean damage protection.
  4. Stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  5. Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  6. Wear sunglasses that block UVB and UVA. Wearing sunglasses without this protection is actually worse than wearing no sunglasses since the dark glasses allow the pupil to dilate and let more UV in than if you were not wearing sunglasses. Look for labels which list the UVA and UVB protection level.

Special Notes about Vehicles

One of the times when one is at the highest risk to UVA exposure is when in an automobile. Long periods in a glass enclosed area and the closeness of the driver and passengers to sun drenched glass create a dangerous vulnerability to UVA rays. Automobile glass reduces UVB rays but does not screen out UVA rays; the band of ultraviolet rays that has been linked to melanoma skin cancer. UV screening film will also reduce heat entering the vehicle and thereby reduce heat build up. To protect against excessive repeated exposure to UVA while in a vehicle, a UV screening film is a must.

Making Prevention a Habit

These tips may sound overwhelming but they easily can become habit. Sunscreen application will soon be like shaving or applying make-up. Sunglasses are already widely used and wide-brimmed hats in many styles are available in stores everywhere. The easiest tip of all may be the installation of UV screening film on your vehicle. Once done, you can forget about it. The film will be working whenever you or your family use the vehicle. Remember small dose of UV everyday will add up to years of sun exposure. Don't hide from the sun, just learn to enjoy it safely.

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