What are the risks of too much exposure to the sun?

The risks of too much sun exposure have to do with changes that the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays make to your skin. Reducing your exposure to the sun is the best way to keep your skin healthy. Here's why:

Sunlight consists of two main types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage skin -- UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. This type of sunlight intensifies during the summer and can do more damage more quickly than UVA rays. The epidermis absorbs most of the intensity of UVB rays.

UVB rays cannot pass through glass, although UVA rays can. UVA and UVB rays are present all year and are hazardous whether they are direct or reflected. UVC rays, another spectrum in sunlight, are also potentially harmful, but the earth's ozone layer blocks them from reaching you.

When the sun's ultraviolet radiation reaches the surface of the skin, the skin reacts by producing melanin -- otherwise known as a tan -- to protect itself. UVA rays are milder than UVB rays, but because their wavelengths are longer, they penetrate deeper through the skin's layers. UVA rays also contribute to the development of skin cancer and contribute to wrinkling of the skin as well.

UVA rays also are used in tanning booths. UVA rays in tanning booths not only inflict damage similar to sunlight, they are also more intense in a tanning booth than the equivalent time spent in natural sunlight.
Everyone is susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun's UV radiation, not just when lying by the pool or at the beach but during activities as mundane as driving a car. Skin cancer, from overexposure to the sun, is the most common malignancy in the United States, with more than one million new cases being diagnosed each year. Although curable when detected early, it can be fatal when allowed to progress -- particularly the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.