This week, actor Hugh Jackman revealed on social media that he has recently undergone treatment for basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. He’s been treated for the condition a number of times before, and has this week taken the opportunity to once again warn his fans about the dangers of skin cancer and the need to take care with sun exposure.
This news comes just after NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, an advisory body designed to supply evidence-based health guidance to the NHS and to patients) released an updated set of guidelines on sunlight exposure. The guidelines are intended to address the fact that skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the UK. They have made headlines by insisting that there is ‘no healthy way to get a tan from sunlight’. As the guidelines’ authors have explained, what that means is that tanning on the skin is always a response to damage – the skin tans only after it has undergone a certain amount of damage; the body reacts to that damage through tanning to try to prevent damage from reoccurring.
At the same time, the authors said, it is essential that the body takes in Vitamin D, for which the principal source is sunlight – so we can’t solve the problem by locking ourselves indoors and avoiding sunlight completely. Instead, the new guidelines – which you can read in full here – are designed to help us all strike the right balance in the degree to which we expose our skin to the sun. There’s special guidance for fair-skinned and red-haired people: don’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes in bright summer sunshine. In addition, whenever anyone goes out in the summer sun, they should apply at least 35 millilitres of sun lotion – which works out at something between 6 and 8 teaspoons. And everyone, the guidance says, needs to be more aware of the time they spend in the sun, particularly between the hours of 11am and 3pm between March and October.
What do you make of these new guidelines? How do they match up with the ways in which you try to limit your exposure to the sun already? And have you ever been affected by skin cancer? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
You can see a series of videos in which talkhealth‘s own Deborah Wyatt talks to Emeritus Professor Brian Diffey, skin cancer expert and pioneer of the Boots sun cream star rating system, about skin cancer and sun protection here.