Colorado is an amazing place to live, work and play. While we’re blessed with lots of sunshine and beautiful mountains, it’s important to remember that we live at least one mile above sea level here, enjoy more than 300 sunny days annually, and most of us spend a great deal of time outdoors. We must protect ourselves from the ultraviolet (UV) radiation at the sun emits.
July is UV Awareness Month. During the month, we’ll be sharing important information about UV. The sun emits UV rays which causes immediate and long-term damage to our skin, especially on our face. The possible results of UV radiation include: actinic keratosis or pre-cancer cells, skin cancers, sun spots, increased blood vessels, redness and wrinkles. Let’s learn a little more about UV rays.
What are UV rays? UV rays are invisible waves of radiation generated by the sun. While some of the sun’s radiation is in the form of visible light and heat, UV rays are shorter in length. Shorter wavelengths allow UV rays to penetrate into the skin. One benefit is that the rays convert into vitamin D. But, these rays also damage cells and can cause cancer.
Are there different kinds of UV rays?
Yes. Ultraviolet radiation is a continuous spectrum of wavelengths, divided into three categories: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
- UVA—These are longest wavelengths. Our ozone does not absorb these rays, which penetrate more deeply into our skin.
- UVB—These are shorter wavelengths. Our ozone absorbs most of these rays, which burn our skin.
- UVC—These are the shortest wavelengths. Our ozone absorbs all of these rays.
Remember, A (UVA) is for aging, B (UVB) is for burning.
How do UV rays damage the skin?
When UV rays strike skin, they can damage our cell’s genetic material, or DNA. Our body works hard to repair itself, but UV rays are powerful. When cells are damaged, we risk pre-cancer cells being formed and potentially skin cancer. Sometimes the damage is to the collagen and elastic fibers, resulting in wrinkling, sagging and discoloration.
How should we get vitamin D?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is best to obtain vitamin D from natural nutritional sources and supplements, rather than through exposure to the sun. When you go outside, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out and reapply at least every two hours, especially if swimming or exercising.