July is National Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month. The purpose of the month is to raise awareness of the dangers of UV radiation and spread the word about how important it is to protect everyone’s skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
Ultraviolet radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds. There are different types of UV rays, based on how much energy they have, and they are divided into 3 main groups:
– UVA rays have the least energy among UV rays. These rays can cause skin cells to age and can cause some indirect damage to cells’ DNA. UVA rays are mainly linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers.
– UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage the DNA in skin cells directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
– UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays. Fortunately, because of this, they react with ozone high in our atmosphere and don’t reach the ground, so they are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer.
Too much UV radiation can damage the genetic material (the DNA) in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.
At the Radiation Oncology Services at Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC), external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is used in the treatment of skin cancer. EBRT is a painless and noninvasive treatment for skin cancer, damaging cancer cells and their ability to multiply. During treatment, high-energy X-rays are delivered to the cancer cells with a linear accelerator (LINAC). Radiation is very damaging to the cancer cells, but is well tolerated by the surrounding normal cells. Also, radiation penetrates only a very short distance into the skin, so that internal organs can be completely spared from its effects.
Patients treated with external beam radiation therapy receive a certain number of daily radiation treatments usually over a period of four to five weeks. Treatments are outpatient and usually take about 15 minutes. Side effects are generally minimal, and most patients return to routine activities immediately after each treatment.
To learn more about radiation therapy for skin cancer, or to see if you are a candidate for EBRT, please contact our center today.