There are those days that as soon as the sun is out you can’t wait to get out and feel the warm sun on your body, but have you thought about the harm this is doing to your skin? UV rays from the sun are one of the main causes of skin cancer, so it’s really important to know how to protect yourself when spending time in the sun
What is melanoma (skin cancer)?
Melanoma is caused by abnormally developing skin cells. One of the most common causes of skin cancer is caused by skin which has been damaged following exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. As well as the natural sunlight, sunbeds are also known to damage the skin, and regular use of a sunbed puts you at a greater risk of developing melanoma.
Sudden and intense exposure to the sun is the most dangerous, which is why sunburn and sunbeds are particularly bad for your skin. There are some other factors that can put you at a higher risk of skin cancer. These are:
- Having pale skin that burns easily
- Skin with lots of moles or freckles
- Red or blonde hair
- If someone in your close family has had melanoma
Who is affected by skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK according to the NHS. Approximately 16,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year and more than one in four skin cancer cases are diagnosed in people under 50 which is a lot younger than the average figures for most other types of cancer.
The increased popularity of using sunbeds is thought to play a part in the number of younger people contracting melanoma. Intense exposure to sunlight whilst on holiday, and the use of sunbed are very damaging to the skin and this damage can cause a melanoma to form.
More than 2,300 people die every year in the UK from melanoma.
How to protect yourself from skin cancer?
It's not always possible to prevent melanoma, but there are ways that you can protect your skin, and in doing so you can reduce your chances of developing skin cancer:
- Dermatologists now recommend daily use of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 as one of the best ways to protect your skin wherever you are in the world. That means cold countries and hot countries, in winter and summer, this will also avoid you getting sunburnt
- It's particularly important to wear a high SPF whenever you're in the sun on a hot sunny day. SPF 50 is recommended when you’re in strong direct sunlight, and especially if you have pale skin or any moles. Whether you're sunbathing, gardening or playing games in the sun, remember to apply an SPF sunscreen before you go outside and to reapply it regularly once you're in the sun
- Clothing is another thing that you can use to protect yourself from the sun. Dark clothes absorb sunlight, so light colours will keep you cooler. But covering your body with clothes will also shield you from the sun's harmful rays!
- Sunbeds can be very dangerous and are thought to be linked to the high numbers of melanoma amongst younger people. That's why you should avoid using them at all costs. If you'd still like to get tanned, then a safer method is using self-tan or fake tan! There are hundreds of different brands available that you can try that are tailored to suit different types of skin. Why not try one of these instead of a sunbed?
- One thing you can do is to regularly check your skin for signs of skin cancer, and to encourage others to do so as well. Checking your skin will help you spot any skin cancer early on. The earlier that skin cancer is caught the better the chances are of successful treatment!
Accessing private dermatology treatment
Moles, skin lesions, acne and other skin conditions can be worrying and can also affect your confidence, so it’s important that you seek advice as soon as possible.
At Benenden Hospital our private dermatology consultation and diagnostic service offers quick access to an initial consultation and diagnostics led by our expert Dermatologists. We offer a self-pay mole scanning service if you're worried about particular moles or skin lesions as well as removal of moles, cysts and skin tags.
It’s easy to find out more about these and our other private dermatology treatments by completing our online enquiry form or by contacting our Private Patient team via Livechat or on 01580 363158.
Published on 08 December 2022