Health Tips, Healthcare 101

Must Know Information about UV Exposure During the Summer

08/18/2022
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Summer is officially here, and so are the barbecues, beach days, picnic gatherings, pool parties, and vacations. While you’re having fun in the sun, remember that those rays you’re exposing yourself to can have harmful and beneficial effects. To help you stay safe and boost your health this summer, heres some helpful information about protecting yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. 

 

What Are UV Rays? 

Ultraviolet (UV) rays refer to the energy from the sun that reaches the earth. There are three types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, which reach the earth’s surface, and UVC, which is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. UVA rays contribute to aging, wrinkling, and loss of elasticity in the skin, while UVB rays present a greater risk for developing skin cancer. 

 

Are UV Rays Good or Bad? 

Sunshine on your shoulders really can make you feel better. Moderate sun exposure is an effective way to boost your production of vitamin D, which your bones need in order to absorb calcium and stay healthy and strong. Vitamin D also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties that can boost your immunity, support healthier muscles, increase brain cell activity, and help moderate glucose metabolism1,2. Some studies show that a healthy amount of vitamin D exposure may even lower the risk for certain cancers3.  

Vitamin D can be found in a few foods, such as milk and fatty fish like salmon, as well as through multivitamin supplements. But one of the most effective ways to get your vitamin D is through direct sunlight, which converts a chemical in your skin into an active form of the vitamin for absorption.  

In addition to Vitamin D, healthy amounts of sunlight have been shown to increase the body’s production of melatonin and help regulate circadian rhythms that aid in improved quality of sleep4. Evidence also suggests that getting outside, around nature, and in the sun can help improve our mental and emotional wellbeing and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even ADHD5. 

The key to reaping the healthy rewards of sunlight is moderation. That’s because unprotected and prolonged exposure to UV rays can do significant damage to your skin, eyes, and even your immune system. What’s more, skin damage caused by sunburns and overexposure to UV rays can lead to premature aging and skin cancer, which is now one of the most common cancers in the US6. 

 

Does Tanning Prevent Skin Cancer? 

In a word, no. Tanning — your skin’s natural response to UV light — happens when the skin produces melanin, a pigment that makes your skin appear darker. The skin’s melanin absorbs damaging UV rays as a form of protection. When the amount of UV damage is too much for the melanin to handle, the skin starts to tan and eventually burns — which can increase the risk of damage and skin cancer. It’s important to understand that people with tan skin can still be at risk of skin cancer. 

 

Protecting Yourself Against UV 

The good news for sun-lovers is there are simple and effective steps you can take to protect yourself from excessive UV exposure and the damage it causes. Here are some basic guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology: 

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. Apply 30 minutes before going out and reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Be sure to check your sunscreen for an expiration date. 
 
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and rash guards, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lip balm with SPF 15 or higher when you’re outdoors. Clothing with a UV Protection Factor (UPF) is ideal. 

 

  • Move under shade, especially when the sun’s UV rays are strongest — between 10am and 4pm. Bring an umbrella or pop-up canopy with you to the beach or park. 

 

  • Be extra vigilant for signs of sunburn when you’re near water and sand that reflect the sun’s damaging rays. 

 

  • Avoid tanning beds. They emit UV light that can create a higher risk of skin cancer and wrinkling. Use a self-tanning product instead, along with sunscreen. 

 

  • Look at the UV Index on the day you plan to be outside. Created by the US National Weather Service and the EPA, the UV Index tells you how strong the UV light is in your area, measured on a scale from 1 to 11+. The higher the number, the greater the exposure risk. 

 

  • If you take prescription medications, ask your provider whether they increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. 

 

  • Moderate the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight. The World Health Organization recommends getting no more than 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week to maximize the benefits and avoid the dangers of UV exposure6. 

 

  • UV rays can reach you even on cloudy days, so take precautions regardless of whether the sun is out or behind clouds. 

 

Check Your Skin 

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, or have a family history of skin cancer, be sure to examine your skin regularly. Check your entire body for anything that looks suspicious or that has changed, such as new or growing moles, freckles, skin tags, sun spots, bleeding, and other physical differences. 

 

Don’t Forget the Eyes 

Along with skin damage, overexposure to UV rays may increase your chances of developing certain eye diseases, including ones that can lead to blindness. The American Cancer Society recommends wearing sunglasses labeled with either “UV Absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” to ensure you’re getting enough eye protection. Large-framed, wrap-around sunglasses are also recommended2. 

 

This summer, as you’re both enjoying the benefits of and protecting yourself from the sun, do something else that’s good for your health. Reach out to SureCo to learn how we make quality healthcare services more affordable and accessible, even when you’re on the go. Give us a call today at (800) 467-4898.  

 

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind-healthprofessional/
  3. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/be-safe-in-sun/uv-protection.html
  4. https://www.grassrootshealth.net/blog/use-sun-safely-make-vitamin-d-benefit-health/
  5. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-mental-health-benefits-of-sunlight-5089214
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/uv-radiation-safety/index.html

 

 

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