Ultraviolet Rays: Protection Necessary

by Lori Sciame July 23rd, 2012 | Health Observance, Prevention
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During the summer we are inundated with information on how to protect ourselves from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.  TV spokespersons tell us to slather on their particular brand of sunscreen, doctors warn against sunburns, and beauty experts remind us that too much sun causes wrinkles; however, do we really know much about these mysterious (and invisible) rays?  If you’ve ever wondered how something so wonderful, the sun’s warm beams, can be such a threat, then this post is for you!

In order to understand why protection is so important, first you need to know the definition of UV rays.  They are:  electromagnetic radiations found just beyond the violet edge of the visible spectrum, with wavelengths extending to the beginning of x-rays. The wavelengths range from 390 to 290 nm for near ultraviolet rays to 290 to 20 nm for far ultraviolet wavelengths. Ultraviolet radiation in the region of 260 nm can cause photochemical reactions in deoxyribonucleic molecules, causing mutations and destroying microorganisms.

Confused?  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains UV rays in easier to understand language.  They state that these rays are a form of radiation. They literally penetrate your skin, causing damage to your cells. Believe it or not, golden suntans indicate skin damage, and fiery red sunburns are the result of considerable cell destruction.

When you think of UV rays as actually obliterating cells, it makes sense to take protective action. One of the best ways to protect yourself from this type of radiation is to know the daily UV Index for your part of the United States.  The National Weather Service calculates this number for approximately 50 cities across the nation, so that Americans can take the necessary precautions.

As outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “this UV Index forecast is published in mid-afternoon (Eastern time zone) at the EPA website. The ozone layer shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.If the level of solar UV radiation is predicted to be unusually high, and consequently the risk of overexposure is greater than normal, the forecast includes UV Alerts.”

Developed by the National Weather Service and the EPA, the UV Index indicates the strength of solar UV radiation on a scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (extremely high). If you see that your area of the country has a high number for the day, it was caused by a number of factors, including local weather patterns and ozone depletion.

Warning – don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you live in the northern half of the country, that your Index will automatically be low.  For example, in Idaho today (as I’m writing this post), the UV Index is a dangerous 11!

Because skin cancer heads the list of the top cancers found in US citizens, and because one person in America dies from it every single minute, knowing the daily UV Index, plus taking necessary precautions to defend your skin and eyes, remains key.  Hopefully, my post has taught you about the true danger of ultraviolet rays.


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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.