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Weather Works: How different skin tones react to sunlight

Meteorologist Taylor Stephenson examines the science behind melanin and how sunlight affects it on this week's episode of 'Weather Works.'

MACON, Ga. — We can confidently say most of us are grateful for the sun-filled days of spring, but one thing always on our minds as we head to the pool or the beach is sunburn.

How fast you burn (or don't burn) depends on the color of your skin. Darker skin tones contain higher amounts of melanin than lighter tones.

When ultraviolet or UV rays reach the surface of your skin, the energy is absorbed by your body and activates the melanocytes, which are the cells in control of melanin production.

Lighter skin tones have less melanocytes, so UV rays penetrate the skin more easily, causing the skin to tan and burn quickly.

With darker skin tones, the higher amounts of melanin block some of those UV rays, making it harder to tan or burn.

Regardless of skin color, too much UV exposure can lead to skin cancer. This can happen if the UV rays alter your DNA to create abnormal or cancerous cells.

Of course, the best way to protect yourself from the negative effects of too much sun is to put on some sunscreen, or allow yourself some time to relax in the shade.

That's how your weather works! If you have any questions about how 'Weather Works' or meteorology, send us an email at news@13wmaz.com. Make sure it says Weather Works in the subject line!

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