How to Avoid Sunburn & Sun Damage
We have been lucky of late with the long spell of dry and sunny weather hitting the UK.
Let’s face it, we don’t get too many chances to enjoy a sunny day, so we often forget the dangers of the sun on our bodies, especially our skin.
We have all been there… where a beautiful day ends with you resembling more like a red lobster and having to face a shower or bath with the unmistakable burning stinging sensation associated with sun burn! Bad times!
On a serious note, this kind of repeated sun damage can seriously increase the risk of you developing serious illnesses, such as skin cancer.
Sun Damage and Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is, according to the British Skin Foundation, the most common form of cancer in the UK – At least 100,000 new cases are now diagnosed each year – and rates are continuing to rise.
Cancer Research UK agrees with the statement. They note that there are around 15,400 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s 42 every day (2013-2015).
A study by the American Cancer Society found that “Sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. But UV exposure can raise skin cancer risk even without causing sunburn.”
They go on to say that you need to be especially careful in the sun if you:
- Had skin cancer before
- Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
- Have many moles, irregular moles, or large moles
- Have freckles and burn before tanning
- Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
- Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases the higher up you are)
- Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
- Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
- Spend a lot of time outdoors
- Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus)
- Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
- Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
- Have had an organ transplant
- Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
- Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight
IT ISN’T ALL DOOM AND GLOOM!
How to Avoid Sun Damage
If you’re reckless with how you approach the sunshine, or more specifically, UV rays (be on sun beds etc) you are at a higher risk, especially if you tick any of the listed points above.
You can however still enjoy the great outdoors and a beautiful sunny day.
Follow these tips to help you avoid sun damage:
Hit the Shade
During the hottest part of the day – between 11am and 3pm – you should try and get under some form of shade. A tree, sunshade, a building or your own brolly can do the job 🙂
Choose clothing that:
- covers as much skin as possible e.g. shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars
- is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen
- if used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet
Slap on the Sunscreen
Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum and water-resistant. Factors SPF 30 or SPF 50 are the recommended. Here is a list of potentials. Reviewed by The Independent.
Don’t use sunscreen to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and always use with other forms of protection too.
Apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours.
Stick on a Hat
A broad-brimmed, legionnaire or bucket style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers.
Caps and visors do not provide enough protection.
Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric – if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen.
Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Sunglasses should be worn outside during daylight hours.
There is nothing better than enjoying a beautiful sunny day. However, be prepared and enjoy it responsibly – especially if you have children. For more information, see:
Your Dyfi Valley Health team would also be happy to give you advice. If you have any questions or concerns about skin cancer. Get in touch with us and / or book an appointment.