With the temperature hitting upwards of 26°C across the country this weekend, thousandsof us were outside enjoying the weather. But while you were out in the sun, how much attention did you pay to the protection of your skin?
In fact, new research conducted by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) suggests that an alarming portion of us fail to properly protect our skin from the sun. Released today, at the start of Sun Awareness Week (9th – 16th May 2016), the research found that 80% of people fail to apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and then shortly afterwards, which is the approach recommended by experts in order to ensure adequate absorption and coverage from the sunscreen. Similarly, 70% fail to apply fresh sunscreen every couple of hours as recommended.
Meanwhile, 35% of people said that they would seek out shade only when they were hot – not, as would be recommended, to avoid burning. The researchers also noted, in contrast to the failure to wear properly-applied sunscreen, 81% of people wear sunglasses – indicating either that they are more concerned about their eye health than their skin health or that their primary concerns are cosmetic rather than health-related when going out in the sun.
As the researchers at BAD point out, these findings are particularly worrisome when it comes to thinking about the development of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The risk of developing melanoma among those who have been sunburned is around double that of those who have not. The number of people suffering with this deadly cancer has been rising in recent decades, and skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK. Over a quarter of a million people in the UK are diagnosed with skin cancer, and over 2,000 die from it – that’s around 6 deaths every day.
So, what precautions should you take in the sun?
Thankfully, BAD’s Sun Awareness Week is all about telling people what they can do to regulate their sun exposure, and thus reduce their risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. Here are some of their tips:
- Apply sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going out into the sun
- Apply sunscreen again just before you go outside
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours while you are outside
- Reapply sunscreen after engaging in any activity that could remove it, such as swimming
- Ensure that you are using a good sunscreen of at least 30 – 50 SPF that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.
- Try to spend time in the shade during the times of day when the sun is at its hottest – between 11am and 3pm.
- Also wear hats, t-shirts, and sunglasses to give your skin extra protection.
- For babies and children, avoid direct sun exposure.
As for checking your skin for signs of cancer, BAD recommends seeing your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin and, if your doctor is at all concerned, they also recommend that you should visit a dermatology specialist. For melanoma in particular, you should monitor any moles you have on your body. You can remember key signs to look out for with the following ABCDE system:
Asymmetry – two ‘halves’ of the mole are different in shape
Border – edges of the mole appear irregular, blurred, or ‘notchy’
Colour – different shades of colour appear on a single mole
Diameter – any mole bigger than 6mm and any size changes at all should be reported.
Expert – if in doubt, get it checked out!
If you have any tips, advice, or stories about sun safety or skin cancer of your own, we would love to hear them in the comments section below.
You can read more about BAD’s Sun Awareness campaign on their website. You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SunAwarenessWeek.