Mad dogs and Englishmen should stay out of the midday sun!

In a timely release, as much of Europe and Britain in particular sizzles through an unusually hot summer, a new report is warning against the dangers of exposure to the sun.

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that as many as 60,000 people a year die from too much sun.

The WHO says the majority of the deaths are from skin cancers caused by too much exposure to the sun's harmful rays, and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) can lead to deadly skin cancers.

The report the 'Global Burden of Disease of Solar Ultraviolet Radiation', investigates nine adverse health outcomes from excess UVR exposure; apart from the main three, malignant melanomas, non-melanoma squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas, UVR also causes sunburn, skin photoageing, cataracts, pterygium (a fleshy growth on the surface of the eye), cold sores and squamous cell carcinomas of the eye.

The report is the first systematic examination of the global health burden due to UVR and says most of the deaths are entirely preventable by adopting simple protective measures such as covering up when in the sun.

The Director for Public Health and the Environment at the WHO, Dr. Maria Neira, says everyone needs some sun, but too much can be dangerous.

Dr. Neira says diseases from UV such as malignant melanomas, skin cancers and cataracts are almost entirely preventable through simple protective measures.

The WHO advises that people limit their time in the midday sun, wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses, use sunscreen of sun protection factor 15+, and avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours.

People at risk of exposure should check when the UV Index predicts radiation levels of 3 (moderate) or above, and protect children from the sun.

The WHO report estimates that of the 60,000 deaths, 48,000 are caused by malignant melanomas and 12,000 by other skin cancers, and more than 1.5 million "disability-adjusted life years" or DALYS - a measure of the loss of full functioning due to disease and death - are lost every year due to sun exposure.

WHO and the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations are now urging people to be extra careful when out in the sun to protect themselves from UVR.

Everyone is exposed to UVR from the sun and small amounts are beneficial to health, and play an essential role in the production of vitamin D by the skin which prevents the development of bone diseases such as rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

Researchers are also investigating the possible beneficial effects on some cancers and immune disorders.

However, over exposure to UVR is associated with a variety of serious and deadly health problems.

UVR rays can be harmful and levels vary with the time of day and year; they are highest when the sun is higher in the sky between 10am and 2pm and are higher the closer to equatorial regions and the higher the altitude.

The ground you walk on is also a factor as grass, soil and water reflect less than 10% of UVR, fresh snow reflects as much as 80%, dry beach sand about 15% and sea foam about 25%.

UVR rays cannot be seen or felt, therefore, UVR measurements, such as the global solar UV index, are necessary to determine precisely the extent of ground level UVR.

These add up all the solar UVR, and take account its ability to cause skin damage.

The higher the UV index, the higher the risk of skin and eye damage.

When the UV Index predicts radiation levels of 3 (moderate) or above, sun safety practices should be taken says the WHO.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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