Ultraviolet rays are placed just after visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum. The further left anything is on the spectrum, the most dangerous it generally is to humans. Ultraviolet Rays (UV Rays) are constantly emitted from the sun. UV rays are sub-divided into three categories; UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVC rays are the most harmful and are filtered out by the earths atmosphere and don’t reach the earths surface. However UVA and UVB rays do reach the earth’s surface and in certain circumstances, can be extremely dangerous.
For example, if the UV level is very high and a person stays out in the sun for an extended period of time with little or no protection, serve sunburn can occur.
When the temperature is hot and the sun is visible, a lot of people enjoy sunbathing. This usually includes exposing a vast amount of skin to the UV rays from the sun in order to achieve a ‘tan’.
A tan occurs when skin comes into contact with the UVB rays and it reacts by producing greater levels of white melanin pigments1. The UVA rays and oxygen from the blood then tan these pigments, making the skin look darker. UVB rays however are not just used for getting a tan.
Some people use UVB rays to get their bodies to produce vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 helps to control movement of blood between blood and bones and Vitamin D3 deficiencies can lead to deformities of the bones or softening of the bones3.
Getting the recommended allowance of Vitamin D can also help prevent developing some cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer and cancer of the womb4. However over exposure of UV Rays can be the cause of some cancers itself such a skin cancer. Skin cancer is more likely to develop if a person’s skin has been burnt severely several times.
In this Case Study, I will look at the two arguments of whether or not sunbathing is good for you. I will then come up with a conclusion providing my final thoughts and ideas.
Sunbathing Is Good For You
Vitamin D Deficiency
Some people would support the argument that sunbathing is good for you. Research shows that 20% of cancer deaths in the UK could be prevented if people had sufficient levels of vitamin D and that vitamin D3 from the sun decreases the risk of cancer by up to 30% for some people. The New Zealand Herald (newspaper from New Zealand) stated “Vitamin D has been described as “the wonder vitamin” after a 40-year review of research found a daily dose could halve the risk of breast and colon cancer. It has also been shown to play a vital role in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis as well as being essential for bone health.”6 A vitamin D deficiency can lead to problems such as rickets.
Sunbathing also activates the pom-C gene which does several things including stimulating endorphins and leptin and increasing sex drive.5
Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder; a condition where sufferers a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls the release of hormones). SAD can cause severe problems for some sufferers such as depression, sleep problems, weight gain, and social problems. Psychotherapy and anti-depressant drugs can be used to relieve this condition, however natural sunlight is the best cure for most7.
If you wear the recommended SPF sun cream and avoid the sun during mid-day when it is at its strongest, the sunbathing gives out many benefits and these are not all medical. Sunbathing can make people feel better about themselves as tans can make people appear thinner and their skin can appear smoother. If a person thinks they look better then they are generally happier. Also if someone sunbathes regularly for limited amounts of time, it could stop them from using tanning beds where they can’t use sun cream to protect their skin.
It is almost impossible to say that sunbathing is entirely good for you. The damage that sunburn can cause to skin, UV damage can cause and skin cancer, are all extremely strong points against sunbathing. Looking better is a very weak argument when faced with cancer. Vitamin D supplements could be taken, and it not extremely necessary from the sun. The benefits of sunbathing are not vast medically.
Sunbathing Isn’t Good For You
Skin Cancer- Melanoma
The main reason that people would argue that Sunbathing is bad for you is due to Melanoma- the most common cancer in women in their 20s and the most deadly of skin cancers. Melanoma, however, could affect anyone who has had overexposure to UV rays or severe sunburn8. The risk of getting Melanoma is also increased due to many other factors. One of those is a person’s skin type. If someone had fair skin with freckles and burns easily, they are at a greater risk than someone with naturally olive skin. Also, if a person has a large amount of moles, they are at a greater risk of getting Melanoma. UV rays can cause Melanoma by damaging the skin cells. UV is a type of radiation and in some cases when radiation damages a cell, it is killed or it repairs itself. However sometimes when UV rays damage skin cells, they are neither repaired nor killed. Instead they mutate into cancerous cells and reproduce as a damaged or mutated cell causing cancer. 9
The risk of Melanoma is greater in countries such as Australia where the Ozone layer is damaged. This is because the damaged Ozone layer allows more UV rays to pass through it meaning the UV index is higher at ground level then in a country such as England. The higher levels of UV rays mean that the sun is exposed to more UV rays therefore requiring more protection than it has.
Melanoma is also more prevalent in older people as, because they have been around longer, their skin has been exposed to more UV rays. Older people may also feel the affects of Photoaging 10 caused by UV damage. The middle layer of skin is called the dermis. The dermis contains collagen, elastin, and other fibers that support the skin’s structure. UVA rays are longer than UVB rays and so they are able to penetrate through the epidermis and damage the dermis. The damage means that the body produces more elastin to produce metalloproteinase to rebuild collagen. However sometimes this malfunctions and results in incorrectly rebuild skins which causes wrinkles and leathery skin.
A lot of sun creams protect only against UVB rays which in some cases can be more dangerous than wearing no protection at all, as Sheldon Pinnell, M.D., professor emeritus of dermatology at Duke University Medical Center stated. “A sunscreen that doesn’t protect against UVA rays can be worse than none at all, because it allows you to stay in the sun all day without burning, but you’re still damaging your DNA.” 11
Despite the risk of getting skin cancer, it is difficult to ignore the benefits too. Many people would say that the benefits outweigh the risk when it comes to sunbathing. Skin cancer is a huge issue, but when people only look at the perceived risk rather than the actually risk, then the benefits do seem to outweigh the risk most of the time.
In conclusion, I think that Sunbathing is good for you, but only if you take the necessary precautions. Sunbathing safely can make you look and feel better. The fact that if you wear a sufficient amount of protection from UV Rays when you sunbathe is can stop you getting some cancers, diseases and vitamin D deficiencies makes it seem impossible to say that sunbathing is completely bad for you. If you take care of your body and don’t allow it to burn or over expose it to UV rays, then the pros and cons are almost equal. If you allow your body to burn or over heat regularly then it is obvious that you are causing yourself unnecessary damage. Exposure to sun should never have to be dangerous. If the correct precautions are taken, sunbathing can be relaxing, reduce stress, and boost self esteem hopefully without the worry of cancer.
Most of my information used has come from reliable sources. I used mainly sources from scientific studies that had been peer reviewed. However, some of my information comes from the woman’s magazine ‘Cosmopolitan’. Articles in this magazine are usually written to influence people into buying a certain object and acting in a certain way. Therefore facts could be twisted to fit into the angle of the topic that the article is written about.
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