Sunlight plays a vital role in our health. By exposing skin to sunlight our bodies are able to create vitamin D: vital for healthy bones. Yet, exposure to excessive sunlight can cause long term health issues, particularly increasing the risk of skin cancer.
It is during childhood and teenage years that healthy sun habits can be formed. By reducing exposure and preventing sunburn in our early years, it has also been suggested that the long term risk of skin cancer can be significantly reduced.
It is well known that the ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight can have damaging effects on human health. The vulnerable developing skin of children and babies can sunburn and scar easily. Excessive time spent in the sun can also have long-term, sometimes dangerous, effects including: eye damage (i.e. cataracts), skin cancer and premature skin aging (wrinkles; sagging; age spots and other lesions; broken blood vessels; thin, fragile, dry or leathery skin).
Exposing a child’s skin to the sun can pose a serious risk to their health, both short and long term. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR), part of the invisible light emitted by the sun, can cause sunburn, scarring, eye damage, premature skin aging and can also damage skin cells leading to a long term risk of skin cancer. The best way to avoid such damage is to prevent excessive exposure by following a sensible sun safety regime.
Photosensitivity is the abnormal reaction of skin to light and sunlight, often referred to as a ‘sun allergy’. Its incidence in childhood is rare, but it is during childhood that some of the more severe ‘sun allergies’ (photosensitivity disorders) can first occur, causing children and parents great distress.
Human skin has a curious relationship with the sun: we require vitamin D which our skin can synthesize from sunlight, yet we know that UV radiation is directly responsible for certain types of skin cancer. Each year over 1 million Americans and 430,000 Australians are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer, while doctors are beginning to prescribe vitamin D supplementation for individuals to avoid the onset of certain diseases. This expanding section explores, in depth, some of the key issues in the relationship between human skin and sunlight and UV to help improve understanding of these vital topics.