The health effects of solar radiation range from mild skin damage to cancer or disorders in the immune system. So it is better to take the precautionary measures that we discuss in this article.
The sun, the star closest to Earth, has been the subject of poetry, dreams, and studies. Its light allows the day to exist and warm us, thus stimulating the development of life. However, all is not rosy for this star since the effects of solar radiation on health are not always positive.
The energy transmitted by the sun is distributed in the form of radiation. But not all of the life it produces makes its way to Earth, as much of it is absorbed by the atmosphere. However, the radiation that reaches the surface is responsible for various conditions ranging from sunstroke to skin cancer.
What is Solar Radiation?
The radiation produced by the sun is of several types. However, two of them are the most incidental. First, there is infrared radiation, which is low in energy intensity and has little power to penetrate the skin.
Therefore, this type of radiation is not usually responsible for skin problems. Also, it produces a feeling of heat and stimulates blood circulation while promoting thermoregulation and causing sweating.
Then there is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is less in range for the Earth, but with a remarkable ability to penetrate the inner layers of the skin. Depending on the type of UV radiation, it can merely cause a more or less intense tan or cause damage.
The Sun and Human Health
Although exposure to the sun promotes processes such as the synthesis of vitamin D, in excess, it can be harmful to health. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns of the harmful effects of solar radiation.
Indeed, it indicates the following harmful effects:
- A greater likelihood of developing skin cancer
- More or less severe burns
- Premature and accelerated aging: the sun’s rays can promote the formation of free radicals and cause irreversible damage to the molecules and cellular structures of the body
- Eye diseases of several types, including cataracts
Another potential damage from solar radiation is related to the ineffectiveness of the immune system:
- Altered functions of antigen-presenting cells: these are a set of sections of the immune system that influence the correct response of this system.
- Increased cytosine formation: Cytosines stimulate or decrease the response of the immune system. These are mediators that reduce or multiply the defense effect, depending on the needs of the environment and infections by external agents.
- Changes in the phenomenon of lymphocyte recirculation: changes in this process can also affect the immune response. Indeed, they modify the pathways and routes of distribution of white blood cells in tissues.
- Activation of T lymphocytes: These defense cells protect the body from infection and help fight cancer. If they are activated incorrectly, they cause off-topic reactions that can lead to pathologies
Effects of Solar Radiation on Skin Health
One of the most significant health effects of solar radiation is skin cancer. The various skin oncological pathologies have increased over the past 50 years. This seems to be related to the holes in the ozone layer, which can filter the sun’s rays.
Also, photoaging (premature aging of the skin) is another damage that the sun, taken in excess, can cause on the dermis. This health effect of solar radiation manifests itself through skin elastosis on the areas most exposed to the sun (face, neck, décolleté), in addition to thickening, dryness, and deep wrinkles.
Photoaged skin has spots and hyperpigmented areas. Because it has suffered an alteration of the melanocytes, it will also show huge pores and the appearance of thick, rough skin. This is due to a phenomenon known as hyperkeratinization.
Prevention of the Effects of Solar Radiation on the Skin
Not all people run the same risks in the sun. Depending on the type of skin, we may be more or less prone to complications. That’s why it’s essential to keep each person’s phototype in mind. Because white skin, for example, is more sensitive to radiation than dark skin.
How can we prevent the effects of the sun’s radiation on health? First of all, you have to take into account that the harmful effects add up. In other words, we have a solar capital from birth that should not be exceeded throughout our life. When exposed to the sun, it is essential to apply protective products suitable for each type of skin.
Finally, children under three should not stay in the sun for too long. The recommended time slots must be respected and the geographical location and the season of the year. Indeed, the sun’s rays reach the Earth with different intensity, depending on the altitude and the season.