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8 Things you need to know about sun tanning

Updated on March 6, 2016

Think you know everything about tanning in the sun? Then think again

Forget the myths you've read or hear about such as:

  • People that are light skinned are prone to skin cancer.#
  • If you get a tan you want get skin cancer.
  • If you use SPF50 you're safe from the sun's rays.

These myths are not true!

I'm going to give you 8 facts about the sun and tanning that may or may not surprise you:

1. Vitamin D

Your body needs Vitamin D to stay healthy, it's important for your bones and immune system. When your skin is exposed to the sun for a half an hour or more each day it will activate your Vitamin D levels and give you your daily dose of this particular vitamin.

2. Tanning

Any sunburn or suntan is achieved by exposure to the ultraviolet radiation found in the suns ray's. The cause of any sunburn or suntan comes from the damage to your DNA in your skin , and can be the first step on the path to skin cancer. The rise in numbers of skin cancer can be connected to tanning salons and sunlamps. Using a tanning bed frequently or sitting in the sun will break down the collagen in your skin, thus accelerate the aging process leaving your skin wrinkled and saggy.

How do You get Skin Cancer from Tanning and Sunburn?

Three kinds of ultraviolet radiation are discharged from the sun, these are called A, B and C. You can find them on most sunblock, that they're effective against UVC, UVB and UVA rays - these are the different kinds of radiation that can damage your health.

  • UVC: These rays contain the highest energy but won't penetrate the atmosphere.
  • UVB, UVA, UVR: UVB is a middle wave length, long wave length from UVA. UVR will have the most significance biologically.

The solar radiation that reaches the earth's surface is made up of 95% UVA and 5% UVB. UVB radiation is mostly absorbed by the stratospheric ozone.

Ozone will absorb very little to no UVA visible light.

4. UVA Radiation and Skin Darkening

Skin darkening can happen within a few minutes of UVA radiation hitting the skin. UVB radiation can make a suntan last for weeks.

The thinner the ozone layer becomes, the more holes that appear, UVB rays will become more dangerous. UVA is taken more deeply into the skin but not into the DNA, it can also cause skin cancer.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have proven that both UVA and UVB light cause skin cancer and eye cancer in humans and animals.

5. The Two-Fold Effect

The UV rays from the sun can also cause genome mutations, this impairs the function of tumour supressor protein p53. Tanning excessively means you're more likely to grow tumour's and unable to surpress the spreading of tumour's.

6. Skin Cancer Prevention

What should you do to be safe in the sun?

  • Limit your doses of sunlight, do it in moderation.
  • If you're going on holiday don't do three day's of intense sun exposure.
  • Cover your skin, with sunscreen, a hat and clothing.
  • Take plenty of break's in the shade in the hotter part of the day.

7. Strength of the Sun

The sun is most intense at midday when it's overhead. You can look up the position of the sun in a UV index. The position of the sun will vary depending upon how close you are to the equator. UV radiation levels increase when you're on the equator. The height the sun is in the sky will change the amount of radiation hitting the earth.

Look at your shadow in the sun, if you don't see much of it the more radiation you're being exposed to.

8. Sunscreen

  • Apply 15-30 minutes before you go into the sun.
  • Reapply every 15-30 minutes. Keep reapplying if your swimming or sweating.
  • Going higher than SPF15 doesn't make much difference. Below is an idea of the rate of absorbtion:
  1. SPF2 absorbs 50% of UV rays.
  2. SPF15 absorbs 93% of UV rays.
  3. SPF34 absorbs 97% of UV rays.

Stick to SPF15 and apply at regular intervals as above.

The Outcome

  • Don't stay in the sun for long period's of time. A big dose or even small daily doses of the sun can can advance skin cancer developing.
  • If you know you're going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes, make sure you apply sunscreen. Pick SPF15 or a little higher.
  • Try to avoid the sun at its peak midday or when your shadow is smallest.
  • Protect yourself with a hat, clothing, sunscreen and stay in the shade.
  • Tanning salon's and sunlamp's are a no go area, especially if you're under the age of 30.

So stay safe and enjoy the sun sensibly!


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      If I had it to do over I would have never sun tanned or went in tanning bed and thank goodness I didn't over do either. I saw a young woman a few days ago that had skin brown and like leather from tanning beds and I have to wonder why someone doesn't love her enough to stop her or tell her it is not at all pretty.

      Great article!