Saving your skin from the sun is one of the chief concerns of those who aspire for good health. Taking skin for granted is so easy. All you need is a few graphic editors to wipe out those blemishes for good. But aesthetics or health wise, sun damage can have serious consequences for you. Proper care and awareness are necessary to save yourself from skin disorders and serious, chronic medical conditions such as skin cancer.
In the United States, skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, more common than breast, lung, colon and prostate cancer. As per the report of the American Cancer Society, in 2016, more than 5 million cases of skin cancer are detected each year. This includes a staggering 76 thousand cases of invasive melanoma. This is the kind that spreads to other body parts as well. This can be avoided if there is awareness about the use of tanning products, stress, pollution, tobacco and of course, sun damage.
America’s Highest UV Cities: Skin Cancer Rising
Research by the National Weather Service has found the top 3 cities for highest UV radiation are San Juan, Miami, and New Orleans. But the other cities are not far behind.
What are UV Rays?
Exposure to ultraviolet or UV radiation is a critical risk factor for different types of skin cancers. Sun damage is the main source of this. Sunlight contains UV rays (as do tanning beds and lamps). Those who get plenty of UV exposure from such sources can suffer skin cancer more so.
Though these rays constitute a small portion of the sun’s rays, they are the main reason for the skin’s sun damage. UV rays damage the skin cell DNA. Skin cancers develop when the damage affects the DNA of genes controlling skin cell growth.
Three main types of UV rays are there:
UVA: These rays cause skin cells to age and damage their DNA. These are associated with long-term damage to the skin such as wrinkles. They also play an important role in skin cancers. Tanning beds emit large UVA addition leading to rising levels of skin care.
UVB: These rays have more energy than UVA. They can damage the cells of the skin, impacting the DNA. The main force behind sunburns, these also cause skin cancer.
UVC: These have more energy that other kinds of UV radiation. They generally do not penetrate the atmosphere and are not present in sunlight. They generally do not lead to skin cancer.
However, the first two types of rays can damage the skin and cause cancer. UVB rays are a potent cause of skin cancers. But on the basis of current research conducted, there is no such thing as safe UV rays.
The strength of the UV rays is based on numerous factors such as:
The rays are at their very worst between 10 in the morning and 4 in the evening
Depending on which time of the year it is, UV rays are strong or weak. During summer and spring months, the ultraviolet radiation is at its strongest. This is less of a factor close to the equator.
Greater amount of UV rays reach the ground at higher levels of elevation.
The cloud cover: Effects of clouds can also shift. Cloud cover blocks UV radiation from the sun. This lowers exposure to UV rays. But it is important to remember that despite being cloudy, UV rays can penetrate through and harm the skin.
Off the Surface Reflection:
UV rays can also bounce off surfaces such as water, snow, sand, pavement or the grass leading to expanding UV exposure. The amount of exposure a person receives depends on the sun’s rays, the length of time of exposure of the skin, and whether clothing or sunscreen protects you. Those living in the high UV cities of America can be at an additional risk of melanoma. The pattern of the exposure is also critical. Frequent sunburns during an early age can raise the chances of skin cancer years later.
Skin Cancer and Sun’s UV Rays
Skin cancer is the consequence of receiving too much sunlight. There are other effects as well. Sunburns and tanning to an extensive degree are also other results. Excessive exposure to UV rays can even exacerbate:
- Loss of Elasticity of Skin
- Dark Patches/Liver or Age Spots/Lentigo
- Pre-Cancer changes to the skin such as dry, scaly rough patches called actinic keratosis.
The sun’s UV rays raise the chance of eye problems such as cataract too. They can lead to immune system suppression as well. Darker-skinned people are more likely than those with light skin to get skin cancer. Immune suppression is an equally likely outcome for both groups of people.
An amount of UV light reaching the ground at any point in time is based on numerous factors. This includes the month of the year, time of the day, elevation and cloud cover. To assist people in better understanding the strength of the UV light in the area on a certain day or point in time, the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service have developed this index. This provides an understanding of how strong the UV light is on a scale from 1 to 11+. A larger number means a massive risk of exposure to UV rays and a greater chance of a sunburn and skin damage leading to melanoma. See the table below to know more.
|City, State||UV Index|
|LITTLE ROCK AR||3|
|LOS ANGELES CA||7|
|ATLANTIC CITY NJ||7|
|NEW ORLEANS LA||10|
|NEW YORK NY||7|
|OKLAHOMA CITY OK||7|
|DES MOINES IA||6|
|SALT LAKE CITY UT||6|
|SAN FRANCISCO CA||1|
|SAN JUAN PU||12|
|SIOUX FALLS SD||5|
|ST. LOUIS MO||7|
|LAS VEGAS NV||7|
Source: National Weather Service
According to the American Cancer Society, cases of melanoma have been rising, as per the American Cancer Society. This is also a common form of cancer among those in the 25 to 29 age bracket.
Most people do not adequately protect themselves from the sun even after surviving skin cancer! A Yale School study found 1/4 of melanoma survivors do not wear sunscreen.
As the sun’s rays are stronger heading into summer, the focus should be on sun protection. This protects against cancer and other sun damage. Here are the factors that you need to consider while opting for sun protection.
How to Protect Yourself
Seek shade because the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Limit the sun exposure during these peak hours.
Another important step is to wear protective clothing. Long sleeved shirts, sunglasses, and hats are perfect for blocking the UV rays. Cotton offers protection equivalent to values between 5 and 7 SPF. You need to use fabric with chemical UV absorption for longer time periods to protect yourself in such a case.
Applying broad spectrum sunscreen is another solution. Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection from UVB/A rays. A sun protection factor of 30 for your sunscreen is a must. It needs to be reapplied every two hours or more often when you sweat or swim. US FDA guidelines state that lotions with a sun protection factor of as high as 70 offer the same benefits that SPF 30 does. You need to watch out for lotions that offer additional protection.
Reflective surfaces like sand, snow, and water intensify the damage of the sun’s rays and increase the risk of long-term damage and sunburn. Skin cancer is a preventable medical disorder if you keep these guidelines in mind. Nationwide, 24.7 per 100,000 people will receive a verdict of melanoma each year, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
The UV Index: American Cities by UV Radiation
- Low levels range from 0 to 2
- Moderate levels are from 3 to 5
- High UV levels are 6 or 7
- Very High UV levels range from 8-10
- Extreme UV rays are 11 or above
A UV index of 0 to 2 implies low danger from the UV rays of the sun for the average person. In cities with this index, you ned to wear sunglasses. An SPF of 30+ is good enough. Watch out for bright snow, water and sand surfaces which raise UV and increase exposure.
A UV Index of 3 to 5 implies a moderate risk of harm from the adverse impact of sun exposure. You need to choose shade when the sun is strong. Opt for wide brimmed hats and UV-blocking glasses. The broad spectrum sun protection factor 30+ sunscreen needs to be applied every 2 hours. This is even on cloudy days. Look for your shadow to assess how much UV exposure you get. If the shadow lengthens in early mornings and late afternoons, the UV exposure lessens. If the shadow is shorter, one is exposed to high levels of UV radiation. Seek and protect the skin and the eyes.
A UV Index of 6 to 7 implies adverse impact of unprotected sun damage. Protection against eye and skin damage is also required. Apart from the usual sun protection factors, you need to apply sunscreen every 2 hours and watch out for surfaces such as water, snow, and sand, Wearing sunglasses protects the eyelids and the lens.
A UV Index of 8 to 10 means a high risk of damage from unprotected sun exposure. You need to minimize sun exposure between the hours of the day. When outdoors, seek shade and wear protective clothing, a hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.Be careful regarding routine activities such as playing sports and gardening.
An extreme UV index is of 11 or more meaning excessive risk from unprotected sun
exposure can create a burn in a minute.
UV Radiation in America
At the latitude of Washington DC, around 35 degrees north, UV has risen by 9% since the 1970s. Some of the top areas where the sun’s rays hit hardest are Seattle, Colorado, and Hawaii.
Serious sun damage can occur even when the sky is overcast. For example, the skies in Seattle may be cloudy, but the risk could even be higher than a clear day. This is because clouds magnify UBA and UVB rays so you need to be clear that cloud cover is not the answer here. Colorado is another high altitude destination where UV radiation is massive. At 9,000 feet, for example, UV radiation can be 50% more intense than sea level.Ozone creates a massive problem too. Ozone thinning weather changes and seasonal variations can impact harmful ultraviolet rays reaching the planet.Hawaii is also known as a beach paradise but it is the sand that reflects the sun and destroys the skin, multiplying the impact of UV rays. So, it may be that the top cities with UV radiation may not turn out to be the usual suspects. This is why it is important to consider all factors while examining the link between UV rays and melanoma.