It’s time to lather on the sunscreen and don a hat for Sun Awareness Week. The annual event, coordinated by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), will take place from 9-16 May to raise awareness of skin conditions, including melanoma (skin cancer), caused by sun damage.
A poll conducted by BAD found that eight out of ten people fail to apply sunscreen adequately before going out in the sun and that 70 per cent of people fail to reapply sunscreen every two hours as recommended.
While many sun-worshippers in the UK will tell you there’s never enough sunshine, skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer (13,000 new cases every year) and is invariably caused by prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
The campaign aims to teach people how to examine themselves for signs of skin cancer as well as warning of the dangers of sunburn, excessive tanning and sunbed use.
Who is most at risk of skin cancer?
Anyone can develop skin cancer, certain groups are more likely than others to develop the disease including people with:
- A history of sunburn
- Fair or red hair
- A family history of skin cancer
- Fair skin that burns easily
- Lots of freckles or moles
- Light coloured eyes
How can I stay safe in the sun?
Over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun or sunbeds causes most forms of skin cancer. If you are heading off for a holiday in the sun then there are a few handy sun protection tips worth following:
- Stay in the shade and cover up with clothes during the hottest hours of the day (usually between 11am and 3pm)
- Wear a hat to protect your face and scalp, and sunglasses to protect your eyes
- A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sun cream of at least 15 is recommended by the NHS
- Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours
- Remember to use waterproof sunscreen if you’re going in the sea or a swimming pool
- Babies and children need extra care as their skin is more sensitive than adult skin
- The British Association of Dermatologists advises against the use of sunbeds and sun lamps
What do I do if I get sunburnt?
Most people will have suffered a bit of sunburn and even the most careful person who layers on the sunscreen is likely to get burnt at some point. Here’s what to do if you get sunburn according to the BAD:
- Take painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol which will reduce pain and swelling
- Gently sponge sore skin with cool water before applying calamine lotion
- Seek medical help if your skin blisters badly or you feel unwell
- Avoid the sun until your skin has completely healed
Check your skin
Checking your skin regularly for abnormalities is a habit universally recommended by health professionals as early diagnosis can dramatically improve the chances of beating skin cancer. Use this online mole-checker to see if you have a mole that needs checking by a GP.