According to the American Skin Cancer Foundation, around 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86% of melanomas are related to exposure to UV radiation from the sun. In Britain, malignant melanomas are responsible for 2,000 deaths every year. While moderate exposure to the sun is essential for a vitamin D boost, it is important to take adequate precautions to enjoy the glorious sunshine safely.
Be head smart
Always have a broad hat at hand to protect your neck, ears and face from burning when the sun is strong. A cap or visor won’t cut it – they may shade your eyes and forehead, but they won’t shield your scalp or other vulnerable parts of your upper body.
Shade your vision
Sunglasses are a summer essential. In addition to protecting the thin and sensitive epidermis around your eyes, they also help avert any potential retina damage that can be caused by glancing at the sun with naked eyes. They don’t need to be expensive designer models either – there are plenty of cheaper, own-store brands that block UV rays (just check the label states 99-100% UV protection before purchasing).
Dress for the occasion
Defend other body parts against sunburn by covering up with light, cool clothing that won’t make you overheat. Make sure the weave of the fabric is tight enough to block out the sun – popular beachwear fashion like sarongs and wraps are often too flimsy to provide suitable protection.
Don’t skip sunscreen. SPF15 blocks about 93% of UV rays, and is adequate for most adults on a hot day. If you are fair or freckled skinned, buffer your increased vulnerability to burning by using a higher SPF. Don’t scrimp either. Apply a minimum of two tablespoons to protect all exposed areas of your body, and reapply regularly, especially if you sweat a lot or take a cooling swim.
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Time your sunshine
Try to stay in the shaded areas when the sun is at its most intense and harmful – generally between 11am and 3pm, depending on where you are in the world. As a simple rule of thumb, the sun is safer when you cast a shadow that is equivalent or greater than your actual height.
Early detection is crucial in the successful treatment of skin cancer, so make a habit of checking your skin often for any irregularities. Consult your doctor immediately if you have any moles, freckles or areas of skin that change in colour, shape or size. It may well be nothing to worry about, but it’s not worth risking.
React right to sunburn
If you do get burnt basking in the sun, gently sponge the affected area with cool water, and then apply a calamine or after sun lotion. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, will help reduce inflammation and curb discomfort. Avoid any further exposure to the sun until your burns are completely healed. If extreme swelling or blistering occurs, seek medical attention as soon as possible.