By Samuel Park M.D., of Avera Medical Group Sibley & Osceola Regional Health Center
July is ultraviolet (UV) safety month – a time to remind everyone that it is extremely important to use precautions to protect us from the damaging effects of UV rays. UV ray exposure can come from natural (sunlight) or artificial lights (tanning beds).
Sun exposure results in melanin gathering in the skin to absorb UV rays and disperse them as heat. However, prolonged exposure without adequate protection significantly increases the risk of skin cancers and other dangerous cellular afflictions.
UV-A radiation has lower energy than UV-B and accounts for 95% of the UV light hitting the earth. It is used in tanning booths and phototherapy lamps. Overexposure to UV-A can still cause harm, such as sunburn and cataracts.
UV-B is the most harmful and it has enough energy to cause photochemical damage to the cellular DNA. Fortunately, most UV-B is blocked by the ozone layer.
There are things you can do to help minimize your risk of sun damage. First, choose the right sunscreen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends sun protection factor (SPF) that is at least 15 with both UV-A and UV-B protection. Second, covering up with light breathable pants, long sleeved shirts, a wide brim hat and sunglasses. Third, staying in the shade during the most intense sunlight (noon to 3:00 p.m.).
The negative effects of the sun should not discourage you from sunlight exposure as there are many benefits such as improved sleep, reduced stress, strong bones, strengthened immune system and improved mood. So go out and enjoy the great outdoors but don’t forget protection!
If you have concerns or would like to consult a physician regarding exposure to UV rays, Avera Medical Group Sibley and Osceola Regional Health Center are here to help. Call 712-754-3658 to schedule your appointment today!