UV And Your Health


Solar Ultraviolet [UV] light

Solar Ultraviolet [UV] light has both beneficial and very damaging effects on the health.


Beneficial UV Impact On The Body

Humans obtain at least 90% of their dietary requirements of Vitamin D by synthesis in the skin following exposure to UV. The main role of Vitamin D is to maintain sufficient calcium in the body by increasing the intestinal absorption of calcium. Vitamin Ddeficiency is a worldwide issue and its links to osteoporosis and rickets.Vitamin C also assists with this process, as such vitamins D, Vitamin C and Calcuium are often packaged into a single supplement.


Detrimental UV Impact on The Body

UV has damaging impact on the skin, eye, immune system and thermal system.

UV Skin Damage

Excessive UV exposure results in a number of chronic skin changes, including skin cancers, an increased number of moles and damage to keratinocytes and blood vessels. UV damage to fibrous tissue is described as "photoageing". Photoaged skin loses its tightness and sags or wrinkles, making people look older.

UV Eye Damage

UV exposure of the eye depends on ground reflection, the degree of brightness activatiing the squint reflex, amount of atmospheric refection, and the use of eyewear. The effects of UV on the eye include:

  • Photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis - short term ‘sunburn’ of the delicate skin-like tissue on the surface of the eyeball (cornea) and eyelids. These conditions are reversible and easily prevented by protective eyewear.
  • Pterygium - a white or cream coloured opaque growth attached to the cornea
  • Squamous cell cancer of the conjunctiva
  • Cataracts - approximately 20 million people worldwide are currently blind as a result of cataracts. WHO estimates that up to 20% of these may be due to UV exposure.
  • Visual Impairment - direct viewing of the sun and other extremely bright objects can seriously damage the retina fovea [macula leutea]. Fovea destruction results in loss of fine detail vision, making reading, watching television, driving, or doing any fine tasks impossible.

UV Immune Damage

UV appears to alter immune response triggering system. This immune suppression results in enhanced susceptibility to certain infectious diseases with skin involvement, and some systemic infections. Additional research is necessary to substantiate this further.

UV Thermal Damage

Solar light also has infrared radiation. Excessive infrared radiation can result in heat strokes and other similar reactions particularly in elderly, infirm or very young.

At moderate levels this warmth is relaxing and restorative. However, a child's skin is thinner and more sensitive and even short periods exposed to the midday sun can result in serious burns.

Up to 80 per cent of a person's lifetime exposure to UV is received before the age of 18. Epidemiological studies have shown that frequent sun exposure and sunburn in childhood leads to higher rates of melanoma later in life.

Having experienced several occurances of sunstroke as a child, I can attest to the impact at the time, and the damage now seen in my skin at age 50.


The Skin

The skin is the body’s largest organ and is made up of two main layers:

  1. Outer epidermis -flat squamous cells
  2. Inner dermis - Basal cells are small, round cells in the base of the outer layer of skin, found below the squamous cells. Melanocytes are in the deepest layer of epidermis.

The skin protects the body against heat and light, injury, and infection. It helps regulate body temperature, stores water and fat, and produces vitamin D.


Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is cancer that forms in tissues of the skin. There are 3 types of skin cancer, named according to the skin cell affected:

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (nonmelanoma skin cancer), People whose skin tans poorly or burns easily after sun exposure are particularly susceptible to nonmelanoma skin cancer. These people in particular may benefit by following prevention methods for nonmelanoma skin cancer.
basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma are the most common forms of skin cancer, but are easier to cure than melanoma.


Melanoma is cancer in cells that make pigment. Fair skin people and those who have a large number of abnormal moles may have an increased risk of developing melanoma skin cancer. Preliminary evidence suggests risk of melanoma is related to intermittent exposure to UV, especially in childhood, and to exposure to sunlamps.

Melanoma is among the fastest rising forms of cancer," says Edward De Fabo, an ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin cancer researcher at George Washington University, in Washington, DC. "It used to be rare in young people, but we see increasing cases of melanoma in people under 25 years of age. Higher levels of ultraviolet B rays (the most harmful) have been linked to the suppression of immune systems in humans.

Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the United States and isincreasing each year. The number of deaths due to skin cancer, however, is relatively small.

It is not known whether using sunscreen lowers the risk of either squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma.


Ozone & UV

Ozone is formed in the earth's stratosphere and is critical to life on earth. The ozone layer covers the entire planet at an altitude of between 15 and 30 km, and protects living organisms from the sun's harmful rays.CFCs, an artificial compound, are very destructive to ozone.

Most light is UVA. Whilst UV-A light, is relatively benign to humans and most plant life; UV-B is extremely damaging to both humans and plants. As ozone decreases, the UV-B radiation reaching the surface increases.

Countries in the Southern Hemisphere are exposed to high ultra violet (UV) radiation during spring when the Antarctic ozone hole opens; increasing by 25%. Higher UV levels are linked to increases in skin cancer, cataracts and eye lesions, and other diseases.

This year's [2006] Antarctic ozone 'hole' is the largest on record," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


UV Health Statistics

Know Your Country UV Levels


10 Health Protection & Checks

  1. Be wise about health and UV related cancers:
  2. Monitor UV levels each day
  3. Keep out of the sun between 10am – 2pm.
  4. Wear sunblock with SPF30+. SPF15 is no longer adequate in ozone depleted layers such as Argentina, New Zealand, UK and Canada.
  5. Wipe it on thickly at least 15 minutes before going outdoors to give it enough time to dry and bond with your skin.
  6. Reapply 15 minutes after the first application to ensure complete coverage AND reapply after physical activity, swimming or towel drying.
  7. Use skin antioxidant creams
  8. Take supplementary Antioxidants , especially with glyconutrients.
  9. Check your skin for any change in skin coloration or existing moles.
  10. Have annual skin checks. This includes Mole maps. Many changes in skin cells can not be detected with the naked eye. Two high tech programs – Mole Max and Derm Doc are used to detect changes in cells below the skins surface.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sun Protection Creams


Related Reading

Sun Protection Product Reviews

Sun Protection Product Frequently Asked Questions


Other Resources

American Academy of Dermatology

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute

US Environmental Protection Agency


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