Discover the best ways to prevent skin cancer and stay safe in the sun
Doctors have recently reported that incidences of skin cancer are, sadly, on the rise. Over 90% of these cases are a result of damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It’s these harmful rays that also cause wrinkles, sagging and discolouration of the skin – the aging symptoms we’re all so keen to avoid. We thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of ways to prevent skin cancer to ensure you can enjoy some sunshine without risking your health.
Damaging effects of the sun
Here in Ireland we’re understandably sun chasers. It rains for most of the year so when the sun does finally break through for a day or two we’re all out in our shorts and t-shirts, ready to catch some much-needed rays. While the sun has undeniable mood-lifting benefits and prompts our bodies to create Vitamin D, it can also be extremely dangerous, especially for pale and sensitive skin. We only actually need 20 minutes of sun per day to stay healthy. Anything beyond that is merely damaging our body and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Dr Graham Fry, Medical Director of TMB, warns against being too complacent about the sun’s harmful effects. “We all get very excited when the weather finally picks up in the summer months and try to embrace it as much as we can before it disappears again,” he says. “What we forget is that the sun is still harmful and that there’s still a need to protect ourselves, even on home ground.”
Examine your skin
The earlier you detect skin abnormalities the greater your chance of fighting against skin cancer. Put a reminder in your diary to examine your skin from head to toe each month. Pay particular attention to any moles or growths. If there has been a change in the size, colour or texture of these seek medical advice at once.
Avoid tanning beds
Looking tanned may be fashionable but using tanning beds is just plain silly. Did you know that more people actually contract skin cancer from tanning beds than lung cancer from smoking? It’s pretty shocking stuff. Opt for fake tan instead and keep your skin as safe as possible.
Wear sun cream
It’s pretty obvious but wearing sun cream greatly reduces the risk of skin cancer and aging. Choose one with an SPF of 15 or higher and apply every day. Even when the sun is not shining bright its rays are still targeting your skin and causing damage. Apply half an hour before you go into the sun and reapply every two hours or straight away after swimming.
Wear protective clothing
Cover up with protective clothing when you’re out and about. A broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses will help to protect your scalp, face and eyes when you’re out and about. Be wary of swimming costumes that might not give proper coverage.
Monitor time spent in the sun
It’s important to keep account of how long your skin has been exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. Seek the shade, particularly when the sun is at its highest between 10am and 4pm. Play sports or do outdoor activities in the early morning or at dusk to keep your skin protected.
The risk of melanoma, the most fatal kind of skin cancer, is greatly increased if your skin burns. If you notice your skin turning pink or feeling hot, go inside immediately. Be extra careful around water, snow and sand surfaces as these reflect up to 80% of the sun’s rays, drastically increasing your chances of getting burnt.
Prevention is better than cure. Take the necessary measures to protect your skin and your risk of cancer will be greatly reduced. It’s true that the sunshine helps our bodies to create Vitamin D but this can also be obtained from supplements and a a healthy balanced diet. When in doubt, pay a visit to your GP to find out all the facts and have a skin assessment. You’ll thank yourself for it!