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What’s a UV Index?!

Because May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, we are going to continue talking about what you need to know when it comes to preventing skin cancer. If you remember, last week, we discussed sunscreen, sunburns, and how UV light or UV radiation causes sunburns. This week’s topic is how to decipher the UV Index.

First, let’s talk about Ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light or UV radiation is a wavelength of sunlight outside the “visible spectrum” in a range too short for the human eye to see. There are three types of solar radiation: Ultraviolet A (UVA), Ultraviolet B (UVB), and Ultraviolet C (UVC). Although, UVC rays are absorbed by atmospheric ozone, UVA and UVB rays do reach the Earth’s surface. It is important to note that UVA and UVB rays are both essential and detrimental to human health — essential because some UV light is an important in the production of vitamin D, but detrimental because with too much UV light the skin will “burn” resulting in those swollen and painful areas of red skin we are all too familiar with. While sunburns do vary from mild to severe, a sunburn is a serious risk factor for skin cancer and for sun damage.

Both UVA and UVB rays penetrate skin differently and, therefore have different effects. However, both UVA and UVB rays do cause DNA damage this results in a higher risk of developing skin cancers such as melanoma.

The UV index is an international standard measurement of the strength of sunburn-producing ultraviolet radiation at a particular place and time. You can use this numbered scale to determine what protective measures you should be taking to avoid getting a sunburn and damaging your skin.

Using the UV index is pretty easy:

  • Green is Low (1 or 2)
  • Yellow is Medium (2, 3, or 4)
  • Orange is High (5 or 6)
  • Red is Very High (8, 9, or 10)
  • Purple is Extremely High (11+)

The darker the color or the higher the number means a greater exposure to UV rays and the greater risk there is to getting a sunburn or developing skin damage. You can access your local UV index by using The Weather Channel website.

To learn more about Sunscreen, Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, skin cancer, Nevada’s facts and skin cancer statistics, etc, please follow the links below: