Every time you step out your door, you’re exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sunlight is made up of several types of rays, but the ones of real concern are UV rays—the most basic types being UVA and UVB. While low levels of UV radiation are harmless, being exposed to too much can lead to serious health issues, among them being skin cancer. Knowing more about UV rays, however, can help you protect against them.
UV radiation is an invisible form of light that is mainly produced by the sun. It’s a part of the electromagnetic spectrum—a spectrum of wavelengths produced by a different light sources. UV rays have shorter wavelengths than visible light, and they’re classified into three sections: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
This is the most common form of UV radiation, making up 95% of the radiation reaching Earth. Being the type with the longest wavelength among the UV radiation category, it can penetrate clouds and untreated glass, and is less intense than UVB or UVC. The most UVA rays usually do is make us tan, but if you’re exposed to too many UV rays over the course of your life, it can lead to skin aging and wrinkling, and can lead to some forms of skin cancer.
UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA, so they only penetrate the top layer of the skin, and can’t go through clouds or glass. They’re the major cause of those nasty sun burns you get in the summer, and excessive exposure can lead to melanomas and skin cancers.
The lesser known of the UV rays, UVC rays are nevertheless the most damaging type of UV radiation. Thankfully, however, we don’t have any here on Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere filters out all UVC rays, protecting our skin and eyes from harm.
How to Protect Against UV Rays
While UVC rays can’t reach us, UVA and UVB rays can. As a result, you should take extra precautions when stepping outside, especially in the summer time. The best way to protect you and your children against the harmful effects of UV radiation is apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses.