Everyone has heard of the damage that UV light causes to unprotected skin. The market for sunscreen is a booming business. UV light has a place in human health, but can also cause vast amounts of damage to skin and other organs. UV light is critical in the production of vitamin D in the human body. It is also used as a therapy for psoriasis. UV light does have health benefits, but exposure to UV rays must be limited to protect skin.
The light rays emitted from the sun come in several forms. UV light is naturally occurring and almost unavoidable. Skin damaged caused by UV rays comes in a variety of forms. UV exposure can cause skin cancer. The type of cancer caused by exposure to these rays includes melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. This disease is one of the most common cancers among young people between the ages of 15 and 29. Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer deaths in this age group. It accounts for about 75% of the skin cancer related deaths worldwide.
Cancers like squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are also caused by exposure to UV light. These are less deadly than melanoma but can cause disfigurement and other serious health issues. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as red or scaly patches of skin on the body and especially the face. Basal cell carcinomas are usually found in the form of nodules or fleshy bumps on the face and shoulder areas. Both of these cancers are rarely fatal, but they are quite prevalent. Most people will experience some form of skin cancer during their lifetime.
Exposure to UV light also causes damage to the skin in ways other than cancer. Prolonged exposure to these rays causes the skin to thicken and wrinkle. This leathery appearance is facilitated by the breakdown of collagen within the skin. Premature aging of the skin and actinic keratoses is commonly caused by even normal sun exposure. Many scientists believe that there is no way to block all of the effects of UV exposure. Just riding in a car or walking from a car to the store exposes skin to UV light.
UV light is also blamed for many cases of cataracts and other eye damage. Wearing sunglasses is thought to control some of this damage. Again, there is no way to protect the eyes from all UV exposure. It is important to purchase sunglasses that are labeled as "UV blocking." Not all sunglasses provide adequate protection from the sun and many can actually cause more damage since the eye is open during exposure.
Minimizing exposure to UV light is the only way to protect skin from its damaging potential. Wearing sun block on a daily basis is an excellent start when protecting skin. Many cosmetics include sun block in their formula. It is best to begin protecting children from sun exposure at an early age. Wearing hats and covering as much skin as possible prevents most of the UV rays from reaching delicate skin.