Is everyday sun exposure still dangerous?

By: John Barrymore

Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Those short, unprotected walks out in the sun can add up over time. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.

The sun puts us in a difficult situation. We can't live with it, and we can't live without it. It's vital to our health, and yet too much of it can make us sick. This becomes more and more apparent every year as skin cancer rates across the globe continue to rise [source: World Health Organization]. Most people know the dangers associated with overexposure, and they also know the importance of wearing sunscreen to protect themselves. The problem is that a lot of people only put sunscreen on when they know they'll being getting a lot of sun. They forget to factor in the small amounts they are exposed to on an everyday basis. Over the course of a couple years, those small amounts can really add up.

On top of that, we have to consider that the everyday sun we get today is a lot worse than the everyday sun our grandparents experienced. Human activity, predominantly the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), has led to the depletion of the ozone layer, which absorbs a portion of the sun's harmful radiation. A thinner ozone layer means higher levels of UV rays, which can lead to greater risks of skin cancer.


Our lifestyles, particularly clothing choices, have a lot to do with the problem, too. Any part of your body not covered is at risk for overexposure to the sun. Think about how often you cover your face and hands. It's probably not very often, especially when the sun is shining. It's the little things that we tend to forget, like the power walk you take outside on your lunch break or that arm that hangs out your driver side window everyday during your commute. If you're not protecting yourself with sunscreen, even for these types of everyday exposure, you could be increasing your risk of skin cancer and other skin related diseases [source: Skin Cancer Foundation].

Anytime you go out in the sun you should be protecting yourself with sunscreen. It's a good idea to use a moisturizer with the right sun protection factor, or SPF, on your face and hands every day. Overexposure to the sun is dangerous, but it's also easy to avoid. For more information on how to stay safe, visit the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Environmental Protection Agency. "Ozone Science: The Facts Behind the Phaseout." Aug. 25, 2008. (Aug. 26, 2009)
  • Skin Cancer Foundation. "Sunscreens Explained." (Aug. 16, 2009)
  • World Health Organization. "From Australia to Brazil: sun worshippers beware." 2009. (Aug. 16, 2009)