UV Radiation and Health Effects
Scientists believe that the combined effect of recent stratospheric ozone depletion, and its continuation over the next couple of decades, will increase the incidence of skin cancer in fair-skinned populations. (IPCC Climate Change and Human Health)
Chronic exposure to the sun (UV radiation) is associated with increased risk of skin cancer, and aggregates the functional declines in the skin often associated with aging. Skin cells in older people are less able to repair DNA damage caused by sun exposure. There is evidence that exposure to low levels of UV-B radiation places older adults at a greater risk for cataracts, a major cause of blindness (Aucamp, 2006).
Other UV-related skin disorders include actinic keratoses and premature aging of the skin. Actinic keratoses are skin growths that occur on body areas exposed to the sun. The face, hands, forearms, and the "V" of the neck are especially susceptible to this type of lesion. Although premalignant, actinic keratoses are a risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma. Look for raised, reddish, rough-textured growths and seek prompt medical attention if you discover them. Chronic exposure to the sun also causes premature aging, which over time can make the skin become thick, wrinkled, and leathery. Since it occurs gradually, often manifesting itself many years after the majority of a person's sun exposure, premature aging is often regarded as an unavoidable, normal part of growing older. With proper protection from UV radiation, however, most premature aging of the skin can be avoided.
Protect Yourself from Sun Exposure
Protection from sun exposure is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. Any time the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays are able to reach the earth, you need to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure. UV rays can cause skin damage during any season or temperature. Relatively speaking, the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during daylight savings time (9 a.m. - 3 p.m. during standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure in the continental United States. UV radiation is the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.
Remember: UV rays reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays will also reflect off any surface like water, cement, sand, and snow.