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Wavelengths and Cancer

I am a little surprised this is not common knowledge. But a guildie of mine said: "long wavelengths are dangerous cause it gets stopped by skin but short wavelengths are ok, cause they go right through you."

To which I replied: "you don't study biology, do you?"

I learnt all this stuff in high school biology - evidently, it's not talked about in chemistry or physics.

Contrary to his belief, short wavelengths are the bad ones precisely for the reason that they go right through you. Long wavelengths are stopped by skin and you'd be surprised how resilient skin is. It should be, it's your body's First Line of Defense (as my biology teacher used to say, so long ago).

But wait! "What about skin cancer," I hear you say!

Skin cancer is caused by UV rays which are (oh, yes) short wavelengths! Plus, if you think about it, to get skin cancer you have to be baking in the sun nearly everyday of your life for about 20+ years. So, skin is pretty tough.

Short wavelengths go right through your body, past your skin and into the squishy stuff like DNA.

DNA is pretty fragile, but your body has ways to preventing broken code from going haywire (most of the time, when that fails, then you get all sorts of nasty cancers). Short wavelengths tend to run right through you and knock bits and pieces off your DNA or mess things up a bit.

Short wavelengths are stopped by things like lead plating - which is why X-ray workers wear lead coats and stuff. And also why they have greater workplace risk than... a beach bum.

If beach bumming was a profession.


Wavelengths go beyond visible light, both ways. UV rays is short, but not short enough that one exposure will kill you! It doesn't go too far beyond your skin cells, actually. X-rays are stopped by bone (hence the use of X-rays).

Chart for dummies.
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