UV and sun health
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can have both positive and negative effects on human health. We provide UV forecasts designed to alert you of an increased risk to your health from UV radiation as well as relevant information to encourage you to take actions to reduce the risks and enjoy the sun.
A small amount of UV radiation is essential in the production of Vitamin D, however too much exposure to the sun can have serious effects on your skin and eyes. It is important not to be caught out by the sun so use our forecast, wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing, spend time in the shade and use a high factor sun cream to protect yourself.
View our UV forecast and UV index forecast
Sunburn occurs when your skin is overexposed to UV radiation, usually from the sun's rays but also from sunbeds. Extreme sunburn can be very serious and all sunburn can cause serious ongoing health effects however most people initially experience mild symptoms, such as hot red skin. Protecting yourself against sunburn is very important as excessive UV radiation directly damages the DNA in your skin cells, if this DNA doesn't correctly repair itself this can lead to skin cancer.
The majority of skin cancer cases are caused by UV radiation either from the sun or sunbeds. It is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with 98,800 new cases of skin cancer reported in 2008, however not all cases are recorded there may be at least 100,000 new cases each year (Cancer Research UK).
Your risk of developing skin cancer does increase with age. However skin cancer is the third most common cancer among the 15 to 39 age group.
More information on how to detect skin cancer and the importance of early diagnosis can be found at these web sites.
Effects of UV radiation on the eye
UV radiation can have both short and long term effects on the condition of our eyes. We often protect ourselves against UV by using sunscreen or wearing protective clothing however do we consider what UV can do to our eyes? UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the eye's surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. UV can burn the surface of the eye much like sunburn on skin.
Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to UV radiation from the sun. Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, both are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.
The amount of time you need to spend in the sun to generate enough vitamin D varies from person to person. People can often generate enough vitamin D by spending just a few minutes in the sun. This means people can take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from burning and reduce their risks of developing skin cancer whilst still enjoying the health benefits from sunlight.