It wasn’t until the last 100 years or so that medical knowledge had advanced to the point where we understand the dangers associated with sun exposure. In fact, the sun is a lot less healthy for us given that life wouldn’t exist without it either.
Most people associate sun damage with the development of skin cancers which are very often fatal for those diagnosed with them. This has prompted widespread public health initiatives to curb behaviour that results in lengthy exposure to UV sunlight such as the well-known “slip, slop & slap” campaign slogan.
The slogan is an onomatopoeic reference to heavy use of sunscreen, which is what it encourages. Many people do not use the appropriate amount of sunscreen to protect their skin for the durations they spend in direct sunlight.
The sun should not be underestimated as UV rays will penetrate cloudy days and cause sunburns after long exposure. The only way to be safe in sunlight is to have heavy sunscreen or clothing like hats that physically block the sunrays.
Despite the hard evidence connecting sun exposure to skin cancer, many people still do not take the proper precautions. This is especially seen in young people who see sunburn as an acceptable inconvenience of a day in the sun.
Sunburn is exactly what it sounds like at is a leading cause in the development of melanomas. Sunburn is also associated with tanning, in which people deliberately expose their skin to the sun in order to achieve a darker skin tone.
These negligent behaviours are problematic and constitute a public health cost. A large proportion of skin cancers could be avoided if the right precautions were taken in people’s daily lives.
While sunlight does help our body create vitamin D, an essential nutrient, there is no reason to deliberately seek out sun exposure unless you live in a dark room most of all the time. Most people get an adequate amount of vitamin D from tiny pockets of exposure experienced through daily life.
Ultimately protecting yourself from the sun is your responsibility and you should always be vigilant when going outside for long periods. If you’re going to the beach or park with a group, be the person who brings a big bottle of sunscreen to share so that nobody is at risk from the sun.
Also wearing hats and long sleeve clothing is helpful in reducing everyday exposure.