The sun is out, the sky is blue…so far so good, but did you know that too much sunshine can be bad for you? The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) light which can damage the skin and excess sun exposure increases the risk of developing skin cancers.
May is skin cancer awareness month, but this important topic is something that we should all be conscious of, all of the time.
It is often thought that the risk of skin cancer is limited to people with lighter skin tone, but this is a myth. According to research, although people of darker skin tones are less likely to become afflicted with skin cancer, the incidence is much more fatal, this is due to delay in detection and lack of awareness. Skin cancer does not discriminate, people from all ethnicities are all at risk of skin cancer, it can occur in all populations whatever their skin colour.
Here are our top 5 tips for the prevention and detection of skin cancer:
1. Avoid sun exposure during the peak sunlight hours between 11-3pm
2. Protect the skin and avoid sunburn. The best protection is to use a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30 with active ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium oxide to protect against UVA and UVB rays.
Sunscreen should be applied no matter the weather, sunny or cloudy conditions, it needs to be applied daily to parts of the body that are exposed to sunlight. Applying sunscreen should become part of your daily routine, not something you only do on holiday or down at the beach. It should also be applied liberally 30minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 hours throughout the day, or after washing or prolonged periods in the water.
3. Avoid tanning salons. Research has shown that first exposure to sunbeds before 35 years of age significantly increased the risk of skin cancer.
4. Seek shade, and use protective clothing to cover the head, neck and feet and wear sunglasses with UV absorbing lenses
5. Regular, careful self-examination of skin from head to toe once a month. Or see a dermatologist or your GP if this is available to you. Physical examinations of peripheral body parts like toes, palms, soles, fingers and toe nails are especially relevant to people with naturally darker skin.
Vitamin D & the sun
Vitamin D is made by the skin from sunlight and is essential to maintain healthy bones. Sun exposure is the main source of Vitamin D in the UK and there is no specific recommendation regarding what is sufficient or optimal sun exposure to gain the correct levels. However, it is thought that brief exposure to the sun - taking care not to burn, a few times a week should be sufficient, exposing arms, hands and face. If you are concerned about your sun exposure and Vitamin D levels then you should talk to your Dr or healthcare professional.
Remember: be proactive and use protective measures and keep monitoring your moles!
For more information about skin cancer visit the following pages:
- British Association of Dermatologists - https://www.bad.org.uk/skin-cancer
- Cancer Research - https://www.cancerresearchuk.org