The extent of skin damage following exposure to UV radiation depends on several factors including: duration and frequency of exposure, use of tanning devices vs. direct sunlight, the time of year, and cloud cover. In addition, a person's age, type of skin, and other characteristics also affect the amount of damage UV exposure can cause. In general, people are more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV radiation if they:
- Are under 5 years of age.or over 50 years of age
- Have fair skin, light hair and light eye color.
- Have a large number of moles.
- Have a family history of skin cancer.
- Have an immune deficiency or chronic disease.
- Are using certain oral or topical medicines.
According to the FDA, it is very important to note that, although people with medium to dark complexions are less sensitive to UV exposure and may be less likely to get skin cancer than people with lighter complexions, they can still develop malignancies and suffer all forms of UV damage.
The table below shows the six widely recognized skin types and describes the short-term impacts of UV exposure. Skin type, along with the exposure schedule shown on the label of each tanning device, should be taken into account by tanning facility operators in order to determine safe exposure times. In no case should exposure exceed the label schedule.
|Skin Type I||Highly sun-sensitive, always burns, and never tans.|
|Skin Type II||Very sun-sensitive, burns easily and tans minimally.|
|Skin Type III||Sun-sensitive, burns moderately and tans gradually to light brown.|
|Skin Type IV||Minimally sun-sensitive, burns minimally and tans well to moderately brown.|
|Skin Type V||Sun-insensitive, rarely burns and tans intensely to dark brown.|
|Skin Type VI||Sun-insensitive, never burns and tans extensively.|
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The UV Index was developed by the National Weather Service and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to categorize the strength of solar UV radiation on a scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (extremely high). The higher the UV index, the more potential damage from exposure to the skin and eyes through sunlight. The scale provides a way of gauging appropriate precautions in order to avoid overexposure to UV radiation from outdoor exposure to the sun. The UV index does not apply in any way to the UV sources found in tanning facilities.
The EPA's SunWise Program explains the UV Index and provides several valuable resources for local health departments. These resources include:
- A UV Index map of the United States that gives up to a 4-day forecast of the UV Index.
- A UV Index Alert.
- A UV Index search function that will provide the current index in a particular zip code
- Applications that can be installed on a smart phone in order to look up a UV Index.