Sun exposure can be deadly

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cody Sturgeon
  • 99th Air Base Wing Ground Safety
The sun is our primary source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps people absorb calcium for stronger and healthier bones. It only requires about 60 minutes of sun exposure to obtain a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Prolonged exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression, and skin cancer. 

Eighty-percent of a person's lifetime sun exposure is acquired before the age of 18. And people of any age and body type can develop skin cancer. 

Sunlight contains three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UV rays are a form of radiation which can penetrate your skin and damage your cells. An example is the sunburn and the suntan. The skin's golden brown appearance is a result of damaged or dead skin cells caused by the sun's rays. UV rays can cause skin damage during any season or any temperature, to include cloudy days. 

According to WebMD, exposure to the sun causes:
· Pre-cancerous and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions - caused by loss of the skin's immune function
· Benign tumors
· Fine and coarse wrinkles
· Freckles
· Discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation
· Sallowness -- a yellow discoloration of the skin
· Telangiectasias -- the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
· Elastosis -- the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles 

There is a one in seven chance of developing skin cancer in your lifetime. More than 90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by excessive exposure to the sun's radiation. 

Malignant Melanoma cases, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have doubled each decade according to the University of Health Services. 

There are a number of ways to protect your skin:
· Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor 15 or greater, 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every few hours thereafter.
· Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
· Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak times. UV radiation hours range between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
· Wear protective clothing and keep skin covered.
· Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to identify any changes or new growths. Check your skin regularly for changes in the size, shape, color or feel of birthmarks, moles and spots. Such changes are a sign of skin cancer. 

Have an enjoyable and safe Labor Day weekend!