While the idea of warming up our pale complexions seems rather enticing after some shady, miserable weather here in Ireland, I’d like to hope that we’re all too aware of the consequences that follow sun exposure. With news of some long-awaited sunshine set to grace over us, do we really know what the sun is all about?
What is UVA and UVB?
Ultraviolet radiation is comprised of three types- UVA, UVB and UVC. Unlike UVA and UVB rays, UVC rays do not penetrate the atmosphere and so only UVA and UVB are associated with sunlight.
UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and so is thought to damage skin cells at the epidermis basal layer where skin cancers prominently occur.
The damage that UVA rays elicit on the body causes the skin to darken in order to protect itself from further damage, and so UVA rays take the title as the tanning ray.
UVB, on the other hand, is associated with more superficial skin damage and so is the cause of that not-so-lovely “lobster” look that you’ll be left with if you decide to skip on the SPF.
While the relationship between UVA and UVB with skin cancer remains a grey area in terms of which holds more responsibility, I think it’s best to play it safe and be well equipped either way. You can make sure of this by looking out for a high factor (UVB protection) and a 5 star UVA rating, all of which should be labeled clearly on the packaging.
But with an ever-increasing incidence of osteoporosis, you’d be right to wonder whether the advice given, can be quite contradictory in terms of achieving both protection from skin cancer and maintenance of bone health.
The World Health Organisation stipulates that 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure is plentiful to absorb the required amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin D, in turn, allows for absorption of calcium to promote bone health.
According to statistics presented by the Irish Osteoporosis Association, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 will develop a fracture as a result of the bone disease.
So while some exposure is evidently necessary, be sure to slap on some SPF when you’ve done your required basking.