The most dangerous health effects of the sun you might not know about

  • Sol Rivero

Now that summer is here, you’ll be hearing a lot about the damaging effects of too much sunlight exposure, especially on our skins. As we all know, sunburns can make us susceptible to developing skin cancer, but there are other terrible health issues that can derive from spending too much time under the scalding sun.

Discover the most dangerous health effects of the sun you might not know about, and find out how to protect yourself from them.


Dangerous health effects of the sun

Sunlight contains different types of radiation, from which the most dangerous one is UV or ultraviolet radiation, which can affect our bodies in different ways if we’re overexposed to it. Although some of its effects don’t last long, such as tanning or sunburns, if they occur repeatedly, they can affect our bodies internally, thus causing considerable damages.

The most well-known dangerous health effect of the sun occurs in the surface of our skin, which can show signs of damage through change of pigmentation (for example: by tanning) or through skin aging (wrinkles, thinning of the skin, dryness, etc.).

However, other dangerous health effects can also affect the proper functioning of our bodies. Two of the main areas which can be affected by UV radiation are our eyes and our immune system.

According to several studies, direct exposure to sunlight, or even the reflection of it on certain surfaces (metals, snow, etc.) can affect our eyes, since UV radiation can damage its tissues. The harm is cumulative, so the more we are exposed to sunlight without proper protection, the more our eyes can get damaged, and it can even cause cataracts later on.

When it comes to our immune system, the effects can be even more dangerous. Overexposure to sunlight can alter the way our white blood cells work, making us vulnerable to diseases, since these responsible for keeping our immune system alert. In fact, sunburns are a visible sign of an immune system which has been affected by UV radiation, and if the exposure is frequent, it can produce tumors and carcinomas or cancer cells.


How to protect yourself from the dangerous health effects of the sun

Yes, we all want to enjoy the weather when the summer arrives, but considering the risks of UV radiation, it’s very important you take some essential steps to protect yourself from the dangerous health effects of the sun:

  • Avoid overexposure:
    it takes only 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to sunlight to begin experiencing the effects of UV radiation, so try to spend the least time possible under the sun.
  • Protect your skin and eyes: it might be boiling outside, but it’s very important to cover every patch of skin with clothes, hats and dark sunglasses that give your body the proper UV protection.
  • Wear sunscreen: the most common recommendation to protect your skin during the summer is to apply sunscreen on every part of your skin that will be exposed to the sun. Remember to pay special attention to areas which can be easily forgotten, such as your neck, feet, lips, etc.
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently: applying sunscreen only once won’t do. Try to reapply a layer of sunscreen every one or two hours (or less, if you’ll be swimming), and always at least half an hour before being exposed to the sun, since it takes 15 minutes or more for your skin to absorb.
  • Keep an eye on your body: pay attention to any superficial signs of damage when you’re out under the sun: redness, burning, itching, etc. If you notice any odd sign, cover your skin and stop your exposition to sunlight for the day. Also, if you have certain physical characteristics (for example: fair skin, blue eyes, red hair, etc.) or if you’re taking antibiotics, antidepressants or acne medications, you should also be extra careful.



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Sources: Do I really need to apply more sunscreen every 2 hours?

University of Minnesota. Ultraviolet radiation.

Health Communities. Harmful effects of the sun, sun damage.

Oklahoma State University. Sun safety.