Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. It is a disease of the body’s skin cells that develops when our cells become damaged and grow abnormally. Ninety per cent of skin cancers are caused by over exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds, while some are related to a genetic predisposition.
What is UV radiation?
The sun emits different kinds of radiation:
- Sunlight, that you see and feel as heat;
- Infrared radiation, that you feel as heat; and
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, that you cannot see or feel.
UV radiation is the kind that causes eye damage, sunburn and skin cancers. It cannot be seen or felt, which means it can be harmful even on cool or cloudy days when people are less likely to use sun protection. The level of UV radiation varies depending on the time of year and day, altitude, proximity to the equator, and the reflection level (from snow or ice, for example).
There are three types of UV radiation:
- UVA radiation goes deep into the skin, causing long-term damage like wrinkles and cancer.
- UVB radiation affects the top layer of the skin, causing sunburn, skin damage and skin cancer.
- UVC radiation is the most dangerous type, but does not reach the Earth’s surface because it is absorbed by ozone and oxygen in the atmosphere.
Source: Thomas Leveritt,. (2014, August 12.) How the sun sees you..
How to protect your skin
The damaging effects of UV radiation are permanent, so prevention is better than a cure. There are many steps you can take to be sun safe:
- Avoid the sun between 11:00am and 3:00pm, as this is when UV radiation is highest.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside.
- Wear protective clothing, including:
- a broad-brimmed hat that covers your whole head, ears and neck;
- a shirt with a collar and long sleeves;
- long trousers; and
- sunglasses that meet the Australian standard.
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