First, let’s answer the question, “What is UV radiation?” The sun produces a form of energy known as ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It can’t be seen because it has shorter wavelengths than light that’s visible to our eyes. UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), so too much UV radiation can cause skin cancer. Read on to learn more about the different types of UV radiation, how UV radiation exposure causes skin cancer, and how you can keep your skin protected while outdoors.
The Three Types of Ultraviolet Radiation
Sunlight is the main provider of UV radiation on Earth. Of the rays that reach the surface, around 95% are UVA and about 5% are UVB. UV radiation is divided into three main groups, which include:
- UVA Rays: These rays have a longer wavelength and are associated with skin aging. While they can contribute to skin cancer development, they’re mainly linked to wrinkles and other forms of long-term skin damage. Most tanning beds utilize UVA rays.
- UVB Rays: These rays have a shorter wavelength and are associated with skin burning. UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays and are the main rays that cause sunburn. They cause direct damage to the DNA in skin cells, leading to skin cancer.
- UVC Rays: These rays aren’t normally a risk factor for skin cancer, because they react with ozone in the atmosphere and don’t reach the surface. They can be found, though, in UV sanitizing bulbs, mercury lamps, and arc welding torches.
How Does UV Radiation Cause Skin Cancer?
The link between skin cancer and UV radiation is typically too much radiation from the sun, but tanning beds are equally as damaging. How does UV radiation lead to skin cancer? Your cells contain deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which tells your body’s cells how to function and what to do. UV radiation is a carcinogen, so when you’ve absorbed too much of it, the DNA inside the cells gets damaged. The cells will begin to divide and replicate abnormally because the DNA is no longer providing clear directions. Skin cancer lesions and growths can form and spread quickly and aggressively if they’re not treated early. There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell skin cancer — is the most common type, and makes up about 95% of all skin cancers.
- Squamous cell skin cancer — is less common than basal cell skin cancer, but is more prone to spreading.
- Melanoma — is the cause of about 75% of skin cancer-related deaths, making it the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Skin Cancer and Solar UV Radiation: How to Reduce Your Risk
It’s impossible to fully prevent skin cancer, or to erase the damage that may have already been done to your skin, but there are ways to reduce your risk. Take the following steps to protect your skin while outside (and in general):
- Check the UV Index before going outside.
- Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and apply it 30 minutes before stepping into the sun. Reapply every two to three hours after.
- Use cosmetics, such as lip balm, with SPF.
- Stay out of the sun during peak UV radiation hours, which are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Use the ABCDEs to complete regular self-exams, so you can track any abnormal changes in your skin.
- Visit your dermatologist for routine skin cancer screenings.
Get More Skin Cancer Information from GentleCure™
Whether you’re looking for more information on UV radiation and skin cancer, skin cancer prevention, or possible treatment options, GentleCure™ is your trustworthy source. If you’ve been diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, contact us online or call us at 855-936-4411 to learn more about GentleCure™ as a surgery-free treatment option.