How Do UV Rays Affect People?

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Ultraviolet rays, which are commonly referred to as UV rays, may cause a variety of health consequences in humans, including several types of skin cancer, a weakened immune system and the development of cataracts, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Some sun exposure is beneficial to the health of living organisms, including plants, humans and other animals, as it triggers production of vitamin D, which is essential for proper growth. However, excessive exposure to UV rays can cause considerable damage, which ranges from unsightly wrinkles to deadly skin cancers.

Ultraviolet rays are strong rays of light produced naturally by the sun, and artificially in tanning beds and salons. The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization classify radiation emitted from both types of UV rays (A and B) as a human carcinogen, which means this radiation is linked to the formation of certain types of cancers.

There are several types of skin cancers that may arise from overexposure to UV rays, which as categorized generally as melanoma and non-melanoma. The category of non-melanoma skin cancers is further broken down into two types of cancer: basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Unlike melanoma, these cancers are slow-growing and typically do not spread to other areas of the body. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, prevention from excessive UV exposure is accomplished by limiting time in the sun, applying sunscreen, and wearing protective gear, such as hats and sunglasses.