Can glass block sun rays that cause skin cancer? | Cancer Research UK
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Can glass block sun rays that cause skin cancer?

Could you please tell me if it is possible to get skin cancer whilst sitting in a conservatory or through a car window?

People often think that glass windows protect us from sunburn and skin damage. Although most glass windows do offer some protection, they are definitely not completely sun proof. So we would not advise that you think of them as sun protection.

Skin cancer develops when genes in skin cells are damaged by ultraviolet radiation. This mainly comes from the sun but can be man made – for example, from sunbeds. Most skin cancers are the result of too much exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet radiation is invisible and you can't feel it on your skin. It penetrates deeply into our cells, causing changes leading to sunburn, skin ageing, eye damage and skin cancer. There are 3 types of ultraviolet radiation, but only two reach the earth's surface. These are UVA and UVB. UVC is filtered out by the ozone layer.

UVA mostly causes skin ageing and research has now shown that it is also likely to cause skin cancer. UVB causes redness and sunburn and is a major risk factor for all types of skin cancer.

Most glass used for windows blocks UVB but not UVA. This means that although glass might reduce the risk of sunburn, it does not prevent long term damage from UVA. So, if you are driving long distances or sitting in your conservatory every day for long periods of time, you need to make sure you are using sun protection on sunny days.

Several factors can affect your risk from sun exposure. Most importantly, these include how much time you spend outdoors, but also the time of day, season, and the country you are in. People with fair skin, that tends to burn or freckle, are at higher risk.

Read more about the risks and causes of skin cancer and preventing skin cancer.

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Updated: 9 December 2015