Ultra violet rays come in different forms and for a long time cancer professionals and sunscreen manufacturers have told us that UVB was the most harmful. But now, dramatic research conducted over five years concludes UVA rays are the skin’s hidden killer.
According to Sydney University’s Professor Gary Halliday, who carried out the research, the findings suggest there should be more emphasis on the development of sunscreens that give better protection from UVA.”What we’ve found is that there is about an equal level of genetic damage caused by UVA and UVB in human skin cancers, which indicate that UVA is just as important as UVB in causing skin cancer in humans,” he says.The difference between UVB and UVA rays is that UVA rays penetrate a lot deeper into the skin than UVB. Unlike UVB rays, there is no sunburn to tell you when the damage is done. The damage is deeper than surface level and our only real protection is prevention. But Professor Halliday warns many of today’s suncreens are not well-equipped for UVA rays.According to CEO of the NSW Cancer Council, Andrew Penman, the research also throws new light on the safety of tanning salons, which use a higher level of UVA to cause the skin to tan. People who have used sunbeds and tanning salons over a long period of time should be extra-vigilant in checking their moles and freckles for changes.Tanning: fast factsThere is no such thing as safe tanning: it’s not just UVB that’s damaging and responsible for skin cancer.It’s important to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, which provides some protection against both UVA and UVB. Consumers need to check the labels carefully. Australian sunscreens are generally better than those produced overseas, but there is still some capacity to improve protection against UVA. The Cancer Council is currently involved in discussions with Standards Australia regarding a review of the sunscreen standard. Sunscreen shouldn’t be the first line of defence against skin cancer and should always be used in conjunction with shade, hats and protective clothing.Using a solarium is not a safe way to tan as solariums emit high levels of UVA.(Source: The Cancer Council: A Current Affair: July 2004)