What Science is saying
UV + HEALTH EFFECTS
Excessive exposure to UV Radiation from the sun is a well-documented cause and primary contributor to melanoma and skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to solar UV may result in chronic health effects on the skin, eyes and immune system.
Australia and New Zealand have the largest incidence of melanoma and skin cancer globally which can largely be preventable given a proactive and defensive approach to protection from the sun.
There is a well-established body of evidence that links solar UV exposure and skin cancer. The World Health Organization has declared UV Radiation a known carcinogen, both from sun and artificial sources.
Additionally, the World Health Organization (W.H.O) has also identified that Vitamin D deficiency in some populations is a direct result of insufficient exposure to solar UV, being the primary source of Vitamin D for humans. Having identified the associated impacts, specifically in children up to 18 years of age, the World Health Organization (W.H.O) have reviewed their public health message accordingly.
The World Health Organiszation's Public Health Message in relation to UV Exposure, states that it,
'..appears to have overemphasized the health risks and undervalued the health benefits of solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiance.’
It was found that a more sophisticated approach to UV exposure was required such that the population can better regulate their UV Exposure in the healthiest way possible. To provide such basis of information, the WHO developed the World Health Organization UV Index (UVI) specifically to indicate the best behaviors at varying levels of UV radiation.
Most important is to maintain a balance in the exposure of Solar UV for Vitamin D Production, while at the same time avoiding the risks of skin damage from too much exposure.
OVEREXPOSURE OF UV RADIATION
The most common acute effects of UV Exposure is the reddening of the skin, termed ‘Sunburn’. However, overexposure to solar UV has a number of negative health impacts. These include damage to the skin, eyes and immune system. As overexposure of solar UV is the leading cause of skin cancer, it can therefore by largely preventable given a proactive and defensive approach to protection from the sun.
UNDEREXPOSURE OF UV RADIATION
For most people, sunshine is the main source of
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to Ultraviolet B (UVB) light emitted from the sun.
Although the required amount of exposure to solar UV is relatively low, there are many Australians who do not have adequate levels of Vitamin D. Required exposure levels vary depending on season, skin type and duration of exposure, and requires a regulated approach to maintain adequate levels.
Inadequate levels of Vitamin D present a range of health problems including bone & joint pain and muscle weakness. In children, Vitamin D Deficiencies can result in rickets, a condition that causes bone and muscle weakness and bone deformities. This can also pass from expectant mothers into their babies unless addressed which can effect the child’s normal bone growth.
The most effective approach to managing ones
UV Exposure is using the Universal UV Index (UVI) Developed by the World Health Organization (W.H.O).
The UVI, as defined by W.H.O is:
“a measure of the level of UV radiation. The values of the index range from zero upwards – the higher the UVI, the greater the potential for damage to the skin and eye, and the less time it takes for harm to occur.” World Health Organization
The UVI is an important tool to alert the public about the need to use sun protection. Current behaviours indicate that personal habits in regard to sun exposure constitute the greatest risk to people from UV Radiation exposure.
Each day the UV Index profile increases from dawn, to a maximum within the four hour period around the solar noon. This will vary depending on geographical location and seasonal effects.
The W.H.O has determined that universally:
UVI Level of 2 or less,
Requires No Sun Protection and is the ideal time of the day to be exposed to the sun for Vitamin D production.
UVI Levels 3 to 7,
Sun Protection is Recommended in the form of sunscreen, sun shirt, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that protect the eyes from the sun.
UVI Levels 8 and above,
Extra Protection is Recommended and the general advice is to seek shade away from the sun.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION
To overcome the related health risks from both over and under exposure to UV Radiation, the World Health Organization developed the UV index (UVI), a universal approach to understanding UV exposure. The UV Index is a numerical range from 0 to 11+, which highlights the gradual increase in UV strength and the associated recommended behaviors to mitigate this risk.
The UV Index indicates 3 Distinct Sun Protection Categories as the UV strength increases.
These are as follows:
World Health Organisation UV Index
Category 1 UV Index 0 – 2 Requiring No Sun Protection to safely stay in the sun
Category 2 UV Index 3 – 7 Some Protection Required – Shirt, Sunscreen, Hat, Sunglasses
Category 3 UV Index 8 – 11+ Extra Protection Required with the general advice to seek shade out of the sun.