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The Health Effects of UV Radiation

admin - July 3, 2013

effects of uv radiation

July is UV Safety Month. It’s also known as the month with the strongest average UV index (intensity of the sun’s rays) throughout the United States. This is the month when the sun can do the most damage to our bodies, so knowing how to protect ourselves is crucial.

Sure, we know UV radiation can be bad for our skin. But do we know why? And what other areas of our bodies can UV radiation hurt? Recently, our Australian branch Screen For Life wrote about what tanning does to your body. Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic to learn the overall health effects of UV radiation so we can protect our bodies this summer.


Your Skin

This one may seem obvious, but the science behind how UV radiation hurts our skin may not be. When your skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, your brain is triggered to release endorphins. These chemicals can make you feel good by boosting your mood and curbing pain, but this is just a short-term effect. The rays are then absorbed deep into the skin by pigment cells called melanocytes. The melanocytes are slowly damaged and the collagen and elastin in your skin begin to be destroyed. This can turn the feel of your skin from plush and supple to dry and wrinkled.


Your Immune System

UV radiation can hurt your immune system, too. As the melanocytes in your skin become fried, they start to destroy themselves. In turn, your immune system responds by sending a rush of immune cells to the affected area. Your blood vessels become dilated to accommodate these immune cells, which leads to red, inflamed skin. Your immune system is now working harder for your skin, which means it is suppressed in other areas of the body, making you more susceptible to other health problems it normally protects against.


Your Eyes

Too much unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to damage of the cornea and lens in the eyes. In serious, long-term circumstances, UV radiation can also cause an inflammatory reaction of the eye. It can even cause cataracts. The eyes are often not considered to be an area of the body harmed by UV radiation, but this is not true. Your eyes need to be protected from the sun just as much as your skin does.

The World Health Organization tells us that between two to three million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed around the world every year. An additional 130,000 melanomas are diagnosed globally each year, especially among fair-skinned populations. Knowing how UV radiation affects our health and striving to eliminate the harmful effects through protection from the sun is a smart decision when considering these statistics.

Learn more about proactive, preventive action that you can take today.


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