“For a six billion-year-old star, the sun is certainly in the news a lot…mainly because it is still a source of uncertainty and confusion to many of us.” – skincancer.org, 2013


[Photo courtesy of tv.libertytv.com]

One of the most important parts of any social movement is the facts and information that form its foundations and validate its purpose. So while it’s easy enough to sit here and say, “we all must protect our skin from the sun” and “sunburn and tanning isn’t good for us”, all the non-believers could just as easily turn around as ask, why? So today I will provide my ‘why.’

Essentially, the skin-damaging element of the sun that effects us when we are exposed to it is something called Ultra Violet rays (UV). UV has been idenitfied by the World Health Organisation as being the main cause of nonmelanoma skin cancers, while also significantly contributing to the development of the most deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. But one of the most interesting things about our knowledge of UV rays is that it is far from complete. In fact, scientists are constantly making new discoveries and developing new health guidelines and forms of protection as new information comes to light (no pun intended).  The Skin Cancer Foundation include a very clear outline of what UV is:

“UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. These wavelengths are classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC.” [skincancer.org, 2013]

Much of the confusion stems from our understanding (or lack of) UVA – which are long-wave ultraviolet rays; and UVB – which are shortwave rays. Initially it was thought that only UVB was of a concern to the health of our skin, however scientists are becoming increasingly convinced that UVA rays, which make up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches earth, is actually doing more damage to our skin despite being less intense than UVB. This is because they are far more prevalent, they are relatively equal in intensity to UVB during the hours of daylight, they penetrate our skin more deeply than UVB, they can penetrate clouds and glass, and they are still able to cause damage to the layer of our skin where most cancers occur. However, both forms of UV are capable of causing serious damage to us, even by suppressing our immune system, which reduces our ability to fight all kinds of disease.

But UVA is of particular interest to us at Shun the Sun because it is UVA that causes us to tan. We have spoken extensively in previous posts how damaging tanning is to our skin and how some people go about achieving that seemingly all important bronzed glow; but if people knew exactly what was going on to their skin when they lay out in the sun then maybe they would think twice about the supposed beauty of being tanned:

A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA.

Tanning literally penetrates our cells, disfiguring our DNA – the stuff that makes up our very being. Scary? We think so.

— Key facts primarily sourced from the Skin Cancer Foundation: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb