There are rare causes of skin cancer, also cases brought about by tanning beds but the prime cause is the sun. What warms us and gives us pleasure can also harm us.
Although those with fair skin, or multiple freckles, or moles need to take care, skin cancer is not so discriminating. A problem can arise regardless of your skin type, or colour.
Thankfully, more people are now aware of a need for prevention and of essential facts:
- Sunburn will increase the risk of skin cancer.
- No need for holidays, you can burn in the UK.
- Sunbeds and lamps are not a safe alternative.
- Even when you are tanned, you are not protected.
- Sunscreen isn’t a gimmick, this really works.
- Sunscreen can rub, or wash off, time to reapply.
There are various factors to consider. You may like to see evidence on sunbed use and the symptoms they could cause.
Much can be done to prevent skin cancer. As in the video from Hugh Jackman, we will focus on using sunscreen and other practical actions.
A Rational Approach
Alongside a pleasant feeling, sunlight gives us vitamin D. Both are welcome, as long as you take a reasonable approach. Try to stay in the shade from 11 am to 3 pm during Spring, or Summer and make sure you never burn.
Wear suitable clothing as a barrier, a broad hat which offers shade for your face, a long sleeve top, trousers, or longer skirts to protect your legs.
Remember that your eyes can also be burnt by the sun. Much the same as sunburn and often caused by reflected light, from water, or sand. Wear good quality, wrap around sunglasses, to prevent permanent eye damage.
Be especially careful on behalf of children. As a paediatric dermatologist, we see a range of symptoms which have been caused by, or increased by over exposure to the sun.
Children’s skin is sensitive and damage at a young age can bring skin cancer years later. Very young children should not be left in strong sunlight and across all age ranges, sunscreen is a needed ingredient.
Using Sunscreen Matters
Whilst not a reason to avoid other precautions, using sunscreen is a key step in avoiding skin damage and ultimately, preventing skin cancer.
You should look for products which are in date, sunscreen has a limited shelf life. Choose types with at least 4 star UVA protection and an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, a higher rating won’t hurt.
The SPF is a measure of the amount of how much ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) the product will block. A star rating shows the level of protection from ultraviolet A radiation (UVA).
Sunscreens which combine protection from UVA and UVB are available. They are often called ‘broad spectrum’ products and are a good choice. By all means read more on how sunscreen works and what the labels mean.
How To Use Sunscreen
The habit many of us develop from using cosmetic creams is to spread thinly, almost unseen. This is not a good approach for sunscreen, you need to be more liberal.
Thinly appled sunscreen brings reduced protection, neither will a double dose do any harm. If you intend to be in the sun a long while, apply half an hour or so before going out and again just before you leave.
Make sure you cover all areas which might be exposed to the sun and if you go swimming, reapply the sunscreen. Whilst they offer a little help, even water resistant sunscreen products will wash off.
Symptoms From The Sun
In most cases, sensible protection will make all the difference. If you are still caught by the sun, there are steps which will help.
Sponge sunburnt skin with cool water, then apply soothing aftersun, calamine, or if the only available option, plain moisturiser. Above all, stay out of the sun until all redness has gone. Dealing with sunburn by more of the same is a dangerous myth.
The sun is likely to bring a few extra freckles but if any freckles, moles, or other areas of skin change in size, shape or colour, you should seek specialist medical advice.
Skin Cancer Concerns
Beyond changing shape, new moles appearing can be an issue, or at times, blistering, or skin growth which you initially put down to sunburn but doesn’t go away.
If you have a family history of skin cancer, or a sensitive skin type, this needs to be considered, although everyone should think about changes in their skin.
Skin cancer treatment has advanced in recent years, this still remains easier to treat if diagnosed at an early stage. The amount of treatment needed is also likely to be less.
We completely understand why people enjoy the sun and they should. Doing so in a way which prevents skin cancer simply makes sense. This can also protect in other ways, such as avoiding premature ageing.
If we can help, you are welcome to get in touch. Either because you have symptoms which are a concern, or just for further advice on avoiding them. We would rather everyone stayed safe.
- Links to all skin cancer: Conditions & Treatments.
- The range of benefits from: Early Diagnosis.
- Ways to protect your skin: Our Skin Cancer Blog.
For any advice, or to arrange a dermatology appointment, call 020 8441 1043, or send us an email via the Make An Appointment button below.