Tips for sun safety
We may have officially entered the summer season, but after lockdowns dashing straight off to enjoy the sunshine whenever it arrives is not risk free.
We all know we have to be careful and protect ourselves from the sun when going out. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can cause damage to the skin and lead to skin cancer. Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK? In fact, UV exposure is the main preventable cause of skin cancer.
Skin cancer cases in the UK
According to the British Skin Foundation (2021) at least 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year with 2500 deaths per year in the UK. That’s273 new diagnoses every day and seven fatalities.
Sunburn markedly increases the risk of skin cancer and yet it does not just happen on holiday. You can easily burn in the UK even when it’s cloudy.
It’s incredibly important to protect yourself and your family from the sun, even on those cloudy days. Experiencing severe sunburn, particularly in childhood, also increases the risk of developing skin cancer in later life.
Top tips for sun safety
In the UK, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are the strongest between 11am and 3pm from mid-March to mid-October. During this time, the sun may easily be strong enough to cause damage for the skin, which can easily go unnoticed at the time. It’s important to take extra precautions during the (usually) hotter summer months.
These are our top 5 tips for staying safe in the sun:
- Clothing is a great first line of defense against sun damage. You should cover as much skin as possible, paying particular attention to your shoulders, as they tend to get burned easily. A hat is also a must. Try to choose a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, ears and neck for the greatest UV protection.
- Sunglasses with good quality lenses that filter out UV light are essential. UV radiation can also easily damage the eyes. When you choose your sunglasses make sure to look for the ‘CE Mark’, a ‘UV 400’ label and 100% UV protection written on the sticker.
- Sunscreen sadly does not offer enough protection on its own and it is recommended to use it along with other lines of defence. According to Cancer Research UK (2021) and NHS (2021)Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 (UVB protection) and a high star rating of 4 or 5 starts (UVA protection) are essential. The UVA protection can also be shown by the letters ‘UVA’ in a circle, which means that it also meets EU standards. Cancer Research also recommend applying an even and thick layer of sunscreen, reapplying it regularly throughout the day and making sure you check the expiry date before using it, because the protection can degrade.
- Shade is often the easiest and cheapest way of protecting yourself from the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is the strongest.
- Pay attention to skin changes particularly if you have lots of moles or freckles, as the risk of getting skin cancer is higher than average. Most skin cancers can be cured if detected early. Check your skin with a medical professional at the earliest opportunity if you notice any moles or marks that are changing or new.
The most important advice
Lastly, the tip about being aware that you can easily damage your skin, even on cloudy or foggy days, is perhaps the most important point to consider during a British summer.
Up to 80% of UV rays readily pass through cloud and mist. That makes the sun just as hazardous as the seagulls, soggy chips and unexpected showers that can make a seaside day trip such a memorable occasion.
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