Understanding different types of UV rays and their effects on your skin

The damage caused by unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is a major risk factor of skin cancer . The sun emits three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. You can learn about the differences of these rays when you watch this featured interview with a dermatologist who practices at MountainView Hospital. If you notice any skin abnormalities, you can count on our hospital in Las Vegas to get you an appointment right away.

UVC rays
UVC rays aren’t much of a concern for people, as they are absorbed by the atmosphere. Since the UVC rays emitted by the sun can’t reach people, they are an uncommon cause of skin cancer.

It’s still possible to be exposed to UVC rays emitted from certain manmade objects, such as welding torches. UVC rays are also used in hospitals to sterilize medical equipment, as these rays are effective for inactivating viruses and bacteria.

In past years, tanning beds emitted UVC rays. Although this is no longer the case, tanning beds aren’t any safer.

UVA rays
Ultraviolet A radiation is the primary type that reaches Earth’s surface. UVA rays have the longest wavelength, and they penetrate the skin effectively. They also penetrate through clouds and window glass, which is why it’s important to wear sunscreen even if it’s cloudy outdoors.

UVA rays are capable of damaging keratinocytes, which are cells located in the epidermis. The epidermis is the outer layer of skin, where most skin cancers are found. In other words, UVA rays can cause life-threatening skin cancers.

Since UVA rays are most responsible for tanning, they are the primary rays emitted by tanning beds and sunlamps. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation , people who use tanning beds are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, and 2.5 times more likely to be affected by squamous cell carcinoma. Furthermore, exposure to tanning beds in adolescence can raise the risk of deadly melanoma by up to 75 percent.

UVB rays
UVB rays have a shorter wavelength than UVA rays, which means they don’t penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA. Most of the damage inflicted by UVB rays is on the epidermis, which is why it’s the type primarily responsible for sunburn and skin reddening. Exposure to UVB rays is associated with a higher risk of skin cancer.

The compassionate physicians and nurses at MountainView Hospital are your partners in health. We’re committed to building healthier families and communities in Las Vegas because our patients are also our neighbors. Call our nurse referral line at (702) 962-5021.

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