Here in NI, it feels like it’s such a rare occasion for us to get ‘good weather’, so when we do get to see the sunshine, either at home in NI or when we travel, there is no doubt getting out into the sunshine always feels great.

But the sun doesn’t just provide us with sunshine.  It sends Ultraviolet radiation rays (UV) in that sunshine.  This UV is important for us because it’s used to help our body produce vitamin D. We need vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth and musclesA lack of vitamin D, known as vitamin D deficiency, can cause bones to become soft and weak, which can lead to bone deformities.  It’s our main source, but not only source, of vitamin D.  For more info about vitamin D and sunshine, click here.

We may only think of the sun as the main source of UV exposure, but sunbeds/UV lamps are another source.   

While some UV exposure is good for us, too much UV can cause skin damage and increase your risk of skin cancer. 

 

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in NI, with over 8000 cases every year.  It’s also one of the most preventable cancers. To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, it’s important to limit the amount of UV exposure you get in order to protect your skin from sunburn and damage.  There are a number of ways you can do this: 

Know your skin type

Generally the paler your skin the more likely you are to get sunburnt and the higher the risk of skin cancer.  That’s not to say if you have naturally dark skin you won’t get skin cancer your just at less likely. Remember you should never let your skin burn in the sun regardless of skin type.

Protect your skin
Avoid spending long periods in the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest. Instead seek shade or stay indoors.
Wear clothes that protect you from the sun including wide brimmed hats, t-shirts and good quality sunglasses.
Choose sun cream that has good ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection. Both UVA and UVB rays emitted from the sun can damage your skin. The sun protection factor (SPF) on sun cream indicates how effective it is at protecting your skin against UVB rays. The star rating on sun cream indicates how effective it is at protecting your skin against UVA rays (1-5 stars). So choose a sun cream with a high SPF (30 or above) and a high star rating (at least 4-5 stars) and reapply frequently (every 2 hours) and after swimming, sweating or towel drying. Always check both the stars and SPF on sun cream before buying!

Apply sun cream correctly – the majority of people do not use enough sun cream. The NHS recommend adults use approximately 2 teaspoons of sun cream if covering head, arms and neck and 2 tablespoons if covering entire body while wearing a swimsuit. If you’re going to be out in the sun long enough to be sunburnt sun cream should be applied twice, 30 minutes before going out and just before going out.

Make sure your sun cream is not past its expiry date - once a sun cream expires, it loses its strength and becomes less effective at blocking out UV rays.
Sunbeds highly increase your risk of developing skin cancer. They produce UV rays which can be over 10 times the strength of the sun exposing your skin to large doses of ultraviolet light.

According to Cancer Research UK “people who start using sunbeds before the age of 35 have a 75 per cent increased risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.”

Don’t just think of sunbeds though - The UV nail lamps used to cure gel manicures produce UV light and repeated exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer! Before getting a gel manicure, apply a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your hands to prevent skin cancer and premature skin aging. This will help protect your skin from the ultraviolet radiation used to seal gel nail polish to the nail. (If you have a black vertical line on your nail from running from the nail bed to the tip of the nail get it checked out with your GP or a dermatologist as this could be a potential sign of skin cancer.)

Examine your skin

Self-check your skin once a month and be aware of signs and symptoms of skin cancer.  

**Remember there is no healthy way to get a tan. **

Useful Links

Skin Cancer Foundation

Action Cancers’ Safe Sun campaign is proudly supported by Gordons Chemists.