Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world1, in the UK alone it was reported that around 2,100 people die each year from the disease2. According to the NHS this type of cancer is caused by damage to the skin, i.e. sunburn, from being exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays3. As the weather grows warmer many of us will spend longer periods of time outside which can increase the risk of developing the disease, therefore it can be important to know the signs of skin cancer and how you can protect your skin.
Here are some tips on how you can protect your skin this summer…
1. Avoid exposure to the sun when it is at its strongest.
The sun’s rays are most intense between March and October from 11am - 3pm4. The NHS recommends trying to stay in the shade as much as possible during these times and to encourage your children to play in the shade, i.e. under a parasol or trees, rather than in direct sunlight5.
2. Always use sunscreen that has a high sun protection factor (SPF).
Using sunscreen with a high SPF can give you advanced protection against the sun whether you are directly in it or out of it5. The NHS recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 as this will offer the best level of protection4.
3. Apply sunscreen frequently throughout the day.
It is recommended that you apply a generous amount of sunscreen about 15-30 minutes before heading outside. Sunscreen should then be reapplied at least every two hours, even if you’re using a water-resistant sunscreen it should be reapplied after coming out of the water4.
4. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Simon Kelly3, from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists warns of the risks of not protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV rays:
“Over-exposure to ultraviolet light, such as a day at the beach without proper eye protection, can cause a temporary but painful burn to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn on the skin.”
Failure to protect your eyes could result in long term damage such as skin cancer developing in the area around the eyes and eyelids or cataracts3.
When choosing a pair of sunglasses the NHS3 recommend that you make sure that they have the following:
- The CE mark and British Standard (BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013)
- UV 400 label
- A statement that the sunglasses offer 100% UV protection
5. Wear a hat whilst you’re out in the sun.
A wide-brimmed hat will help to reduce the amount of UV rays that can reach your eyes and face3.
6. Try to avoid using sunbeds.
According to the NHS sunbeds are not safer alternatives to sunbathing outside; in fact they can increase your risk of developing skin cancer by 75%3.
7. Cover up to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Use clothing with tightly woven fabric as this will protect better against the sun’s rays. Darker colours tend to provide more protection than light colours. Be aware that wearing clothing to cover up doesn’t block out all of the sun’s UV rays, generally if you can see the light through a fabric then there’s a high chance that the UV rays can get through too6.
8. Don’t be fooled by cloudy weather!
Did you know that the sun’s ultraviolet light can still penetrate through cloud cover even if it is cloudy? It can be a good idea to take precautions even if the sun may not be shining7.
9. Don’t forget to protect your ears.
Many people will often forget to protect sensitive areas such as the tops of their ears, the hairline and the ‘V’ of their chest, the nose and hands. Did you know that 80% of skin cancers occur on the head, neck and hands7? This is why it is important to protect these missed areas whether it is through applying generous amounts of sunscreen or by wearing a tightly woven wide-brimmed hat.
10. Prevent your children from being exposed to the sun.
WebMD8 recommends protecting your children from the sun’s harmful rays from an early age, ideally when he or she is a baby. They recommend this as children usually get the majority of their lifetime sun exposure during the first 18 years of their life because they spend a lot of their time outside playing.
Find out about our various cancer cover options by visiting our health insurance cover options page.