SkinHealth UK reminds Brits of the importance of sun protection during the summer

Extended periods of sunshine may be as difficult as ever to predict during the Great British summer – but that gives us all the more reason to keep in mind our risk of skin cancer.

When the weather is hot and sunny, the intense UV radiation from the sun’s rays can pose a very real threat and adequate sun protection is required. Variable weather can lull us into a false sense of security, however, with cloudy or rainy periods making is feel we don’t need to bother with sun protection. Even short periods of exposure can put us at risk, however.

Mr Per Hall, FRCS(Plast) of SkinHealthUK explains: “It is vital to wear sun protection every day, even if you are not out in the sun for very long. Just a 10 minute walk to your car at lunchtime could be enough to damage your skin.”

“Those individuals who have experienced burning (pink or red skin) are actually more vulnerable to damage in the future. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors, or are of a certain skin type, are also more at risk.”

But it’s not only those individuals who work outdoors who should be thinking about protecting their skin. “Those who work indoors most of the time should also think about sun protection. Putting on a factor 50 under make up, and a 30 on the rest of your skin – particularly bare arms, legs and chest – will help to protect you when you nip out at lunchtime, for example, or during the trip to the train station from the office.”

Simple sun protection advice is fairly well known, but not always well practiced. It is advisable to wear a hat, sunglasses and reapply sun cream every four hours – and this is particularly important with children.

Sun damage actually occurs when ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate deep in to the skin and damage cells. These cells are then at risk of becoming cancerous. There are two types of rays – UVB and UVA. UVB rays cause the skin to burn. UVA rays penetrate more deeply in to the skin and cause ageing in addition to a host of skin disorders.

“It is highly recommended to find a sunscreen that protects against both types,” explains Mr Hall. “Most people also rend to only wear between factor 15 and 20, when in fact they should be going for between 30 and 50.”

Education on skin cancer has improved, yet it is still the most common form of cancer in the UK with rates continuing to rise. There are two broad categories of skin cancer: melanoma – the most dangerous form of the disease – and non-melanoma. Over 99,500 people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year. Approximately 13,300 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, making it the fifth most widespread cancer. It is also the second most common cancer in young adults (aged 15-34) with 2,100 people dying from the disease each year.