Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What Role Does Ultraviolet Radiation Play?

Pacific Dermatology ultraviolet radiation treatment Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What Role Does Ultraviolet Radiation Play?

Understanding Ultraviolet Radiation Treatment

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the top skin cancer risk factors. But do you know how UV radiation works? Understanding the role of UV radiation can help you protect your skin -- and avoid skin cancer.

What Is UV Radiation?

Ultraviolet radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun. The rays have short wavelengths, so you can’t see them. Artificial sources like tanning beds also produce UV radiation. While ultraviolet radiation is essential for vitamin D absorption, too much of it can put you at risk for skin cancer.

There are three main types of UV radiation: UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. However, most UVC rays are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. When discussing skin cancer prevention, it’s important to focus on the other two types:

  • UVA: Ultraviolet A radiation produces less energy than UVB and UVC. It reaches the inner layers of the cells and is associated with skin aging. UVA rays make up the majority of the UV radiation that reaches the ground.
  • UVB: Ultraviolet B radiation produces less energy than UVC but more than UVA. These rays are what cause the skin to burn, since they only reach the top layer.

When UVA and UVB rays act together, they cause the one-two punch of aging and burns. Excess exposure can lead to skin damage over time, including skin cancer.

How Does UV Radiation Cause Skin Cancer?

Excessive exposure to UV radiation can damage the DNA in your skin cells over time. While this damage might have little effect at first, it can eventually cause the cells to multiply at a rapid rate. This uncontrolled growth is what leads to skin cancer.

Studies show that UV radiation plays a role in the development of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. All of these skin cancers most often appear in sun-exposed areas. Individuals who have been exposed to UV radiation, either from the sun or artificial tanning lights, are at risk for these types of cancer.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

While the risks of UV radiation can sound scary, there are plenty of ways to protect your skin. Prioritizing skin protection at any age can lower your risk of skin cancer. Here are some key ways to avoid overexposure:

  • Cover up: Wear protective clothing whenever possible. Long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brim hat can shield vulnerable areas from the sun. Shielding your skin is especially important when spending most of the day outdoors.
  • Wear SPF: Apply sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) before you go outside, even on cloudy days. Reapply about every two hours and more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating.
  • Avoid artificial tanning: Indoor tanning beds have been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer. Opt for self-tanner instead if you’re looking for a glow.
  • Stay in the shade: Try to avoid the sun during mid-day. UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Keep in mind that it’s impossible to avoid UV radiation completely, and a bit of sun exposure is actually healthy. However, you can lower your risk of skin cancer by protecting your skin as often as possible. You should also see your dermatologist regularly for skin cancer screenings, as early detection makes this disease more treatable.

To learn more about skin cancer causes and your personal risk factors, contact the team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists. Our skin cancer and dermatology specialists are available for education, screenings, and treatment, so you can feel confident about your skin’s health. We have offices in Torrance, CA and the surrounding areas, so you can book an appointment at a location near you.

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