Exposure to sun poses major health risks: Health Ministry


Saudi Gazette report

– The Health Ministry has cautioned the public against six major health risks caused by exposure to the sun, including skin cancer, cataract, sunstroke, burns and wrinkles.

The health warning comes at a time when the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has imposed a work ban between 12 noon and 3 p.m. until Sept. 15 to protect the health of workers, especially those in construction sites.

The Labor and Social Development Ministry has intensified its efforts to educate the public to keep away from the scorching sun as part of its efforts to protect the workers.

Khaled Abalkhail, spokesman for the ministry, has said the government wants to create a healthy working environment for employees in the public and private sectors to ensure their safety.

The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays that are particularly harmful in hot summer. Too much sun exposure allows UV rays to reach your inner skin layers. This can cause skin cells to die, damage, or develop cancer, said a medical expert.

Too much sun exposure can be harmful. Time spent in the sun makes your skin age faster than normal. Signs of this are wrinkled, tight, or scaly skin and dark spots, he explained.

“Too much exposure to sun will also impair our immune system. White blood cells work to protect your body. When your skin gets burned, white blood cells help create new cells. Doing this can put your immune system at risk in other areas,” the expert said.

UV rays can also damage the tissue in your eyes. They can burn the eye's outer layer called the cornea, blurring vision. Over time, you can develop cataracts. This can cause blindness if left untreated.

Everyone is at risk of the effects of sun exposure. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what color your skin is. Your risk increases based on the length and depth of exposure, the expert said. You are at greater risk if you have fair skin or moles. Family history of skin cancer also is a risk factor.

People who work in the sun all day are at greater risk as well. Farmers, construction workers and fishermen need extra protection.

Speaking about protective measures, he said: “You should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun. You should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. You also should reapply it after swimming or sweating."

Avoid direct sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Be careful in locations that are closer to the Equator. Take breaks, as too much sun exposure is harmful. Go indoors, get in the shade, or use an umbrella.

“Wear clothing and hats to protect your skin from UV rays. This should always apply to children, who have more sensitive skins. You also should wear sunglasses that block UV rays,” he said.