As the summer approaches, everyone is looking forward to spending time outdoors enjoying the sunshine. However, too much exposure to the sun's UV rays can leave you vulnerable to skin cancer. Here's how to enjoy the summer sun whilst staying safe.
A painful dose of sore, reddened skin is a sign that your skin has been burned following exposure to too much UV radiation. This is extremely dangerous; repeated overexposure can eventually cause skin cancer.
Protect yourself by staying out of the sun when it's at its hottest, usually between 11am and 3pm. If you must be out in the sun for most of the day, cover up exposed areas of skin with a shirt and long, lightweight trousers. A close-weave cotton material is perfect for maximum protection as the natural fibres help to keep you cool, and the close weave prevents UV penetration. If you wear something with loose weave fibres, it will stretch when wet which allows more UV rays through to your skin.
Additionally, choose a hat with a wide brim so that your neck and ears are shaded as well as your face. Hats are available with a fabric flap at the back to cover your neck. The delicate skin around your eyes can be vulnerable to UV damage so choose good quality wrap-round sunglasses. Make sure that they have polarised lenses with a UV screen to protect your eyes.
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors on a lovely sunny day, pick a nice shady area; overhanging trees, canopies, and even the shade afforded by buildings is ideal. Be very careful if you're out on the water. Just because there's a nice cool breeze, it doesn't mean you won't get burned. The sun reflects from the water, which intensifies its strength, and it's just as damaging regardless of how comfortable you might feel in the wind. To keep safe, keep in the shade or cover up.
Use a high factor (50+) sunblock, and reapply if you've been swimming or if you've been working and sweating profusely. Children's skin is delicate and very vulnerable to UV damage, so use child-specific high-factor sunblock to protect your little ones, and reapply it frequently.
Always make sure that the sunblock you choose is good quality and still 'in date'. Any old bottles you have left over from last summer should be thrown out as the product will lose its efficacy over time once it's open. Sunblock is never 100% effective, however, so don't be fooled into thinking you can stay out in the sun all day without sustaining some skin damage.
It's also a good idea to apply sunblock before you dress. This will give you an important extra layer of protection when you're outside, even if you're going to be wearing long sleeves. Apply one layer of sunblock and let it soak into your skin thoroughly. Apply a second layer before you go out into the sun. If you want to apply insect repellents, moisturiser or make-up, do so after your sunscreen so that your protection is not interrupted.
Checking for signs of skin cancer
If you spend time out in the sun every summer, make it a habit to check your skin regularly for signs of cancer. The most common sites for the disease are on your back, across your shoulders, and on your face.
Look out for:
- moles or large skin blemishes that appear suddenly or change in appearance
- sore spots that don't heal within a month
- painful areas that are itchy, crusty, bleeding or scabbed for a month or more
- ulcers or areas of damaged skin that don't heal within a month
If you notice any of these symptoms or find anything else unusual that concerns you, always seek your doctor's advice. You may be referred to a skin cancer clinic like Sun Patrol Skin Cancer Clinic Pty Ltd for further investigation. Remember; skin cancer is extremely treatable if it's found quickly.
Skin cancer is easily prevented and responds well to treatment, if it's spotted quickly. Enjoy time in the sun this summer, but take steps to protect yourself and your family, and stay safe.