The sun is essential for life. It provides light and warmth, but it can also be damaging to people when we get too much exposure to the sun.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and from tanning beds can cause many health problems. UV is classified as a carcinogen, meaning that it is known to cause cancer in people. UV is stronger at higher altitudes, so Coloradans are at higher risk since we are a mile closer to the sun!
Harmful Health Effects
Health Effects of Overexposure to UV:
- Wrinkling and early aging of the skin: Sun exposure can cause skin aging, wrinkling, and sun spots.
- Skin cancer: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. More people are diagnosed each year with skin cancer than breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancers combined. There are three kinds of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Learn more about skin cancers.
- Macular degeneration and cataracts: Macular degeneration is progressive damage to a part of the eye known as the macula. It is the leading cause of blindness in adults over age 55. Cataracts are a clouding on the lens of the eye, which can lead to blindness if not treated. Learn more about cataracts.
Because of our altitude and abundant sunshine, Coloradans need to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect themselves from skin and eye damage that can result from overexposure to UV rays. Melanoma risk has been linked to exposure to the sun and sunburns in childhood, so it is especially important to start early by protecting young children and beginning sun safe habits early in life. You can take simple steps to protect yourself and your family:
- Try to avoid the sun during peak UV hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Seek shade when outdoors.
- Wear protective clothing, such as long pants and long sleeves.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on all exposed skin. Reapply every two hours or as instructed on the label.
- Remember that sun protection is not just for summer time: use extra caution when around snow, sand and water, as UV rays reflect off these surfaces and increase your exposure. This is important to remember during the winter if you are skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or engaging in other winter sports.
- Never use indoor tanning beds.
- Speak with your healthcare provider about screening for skin cancer and performing skin self-exams.
It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a safe tan. Tanning is a change in your skin's DNA in reaction to the UV radiation from the sun. A "base tan" will not prevent you from burning. The only way to protect yourself and reduce your risk of sun-associated diseases is by practicing good sun safety behaviors.