Health effects of UV radiation

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The atmospheres natural protection from the sun’s harmful UV radiation is highly decreased by the ozone layer depletion. Below is an overview of the major health problems linked to overexposure to UV radiation.

1. Skin cancer
Unprotected exposure to UV radiation and sunburns are the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.
Research shows that Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is now one of the most common cancers among adolescents and young adults. Melanoma accounts for most skin cancer deaths. Not all melanomas are exclusively sun related; other possible influences include genetic factors and immune system deficiencies.
Non melanoma skin cancers are less deadly than melanomas. Nevertheless they can spread if left untreated causing disfigurement and more serious health problems. They are rarely fatal if caught and treated early.
They are of two types:

a. Basal cell carcinomas: the most common type of skin cancer tumors. They appear as small, fleshy bumps or nodules on the skin. They grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body but can penetrate to the bone and cause considerable damage.
b. Squamous cell carcinomas: tumors that may appear as nodules or as red, scaly patches on the skin. This cancer can develop into large masses and can spread to other parts of the body.

2. Premature aging and other skin damage
Other skin disorders related to UV include actinic keratoses and premature aging of the skin. Actinic keratoses are skin growths that occur on the face, hands and other parts of the skin exposed to the sun. They appear as reddish, rough textured growths. Chronic exposure to the sun also causes premature aging, which overtime make the skin become thick, wrinkled and leathery. With proper protection from the UV radiation, most premature aging of the skin can be avoided.

3. Cataracts and other eye damage
Cataracts are a form of eye damage in which a loss of transparency in the lens of the eye clouds vision. If left untreated, they can cause blindness. Research has shown that UV radiation increases the likelihood of cataracts. Other types of eye damage include: pterygium, shin cancer around the eyes and degeneration of the macula. To protect your eyes, wear sun glasses.

4. Immune suppression
Too much exposure to UV radiation may suppress proper functioning of the body’s immune system and the skins natural defenses. They weaken the immune system, reducing the skin’s ability to protect against foreign invaders such as cancers and infections.

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