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Optical Radiation

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Optische Strahlung

Why UV-radiation protection?

Individual exposure to natural ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the associated health hazard are largely determined by everbody’s own behaviour. Exposure and hazard, therefore, are up to you. This is why you should take the appropriate protective measures during any activity outdoors, especially during holidays.

Since we know a lot about the effects of UV-radiation, we have a good chance of protecting ourselves: reasonable exposure to sunlight will help reduce the risk to develop skin cancer. In this connexion it is important to be aware of both the appropriate measures of protection against excessive UV-radiation and the conditions under which these are required.

The UV-Index UV-IndexThe UV-Index

Guidance by UV-Index

The UV-Index (UVI) serves as a guide: the higher the UVI on a given day, the sooner sunburn may occur on unprotected skin.

  • UVI 1 or 2: Low UV-exposure. No protective measures required.
  • UVI 3 to 7: Medium to high UV-exposure. In this range it is recommended to wear a hat and sunglasses, long sleeved shirts, trousers or skirts, and shoes. Sufficient quantities of Sunscreen should be applied to all uncovered body regions, and one should seek shade at least during midday hours from 11 to 15.
  • UVI 8 and more: Very high UV-exposure. In this range one should protect oneself not only by clothing, headwear, sunglasses and sunscreen, but also by seeking shade as much as possible and staying indoors from 11 am to 3 pm. The "siesta" customary for local inhabitants of southern countries definitely makes sense.

UV-radiation reflected by snow, water, asphalt or sand may exceed the UVI-levels indicated for the location in question. In such situations it is particularly important to ensure sufficient sun protection.

How easily you burn depends on your sensitivity, i.e. your skin type.

Why particularly protecting children?

Particularly for children it is vital to take care that high UV-exposure and sunburns be absolutely prevented! Sudden, strong UV-exposures (so-called "intermittent" UV-exposures) and sunburns during childhood and adolescence increase the risk to develop skin cancer.

  • Excessive UV-radiation, as well as sunburns, produce cell damage. Children’s and youngsters’ bodies are still in development, thus undergoing more cell divisions than adults. Cell damage therefore may multiply more rapidly due to the high cell proliferation rate. As a result, there is a high probability of persistent cell damage which, in turn, may cause cancer.
  • UV-radiation basically influences the formation of pigmented moles of the skin. An increased number of such pigmented moles (more than 50) acquired as a result of high UV-exposures and sunburns, as well as atypical pigmented moles signify an increased risk to develop black cancer, i.e. malignant melanoma.

As a general rule, babies should be kept out of direct sunlight. Children must be protected from strong UV-radiation and sunburn. Children and youngsters aged under 18 have absolutely no place in sunbeds – sunbed use by under 18s is even prohibited by law. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer the risk to develop skin cancer may rise by 75 per cent if sunbeds are regularly used before the age of 30.

State of 2016.11.29

© Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz