As summer is here and we are due to be hit by a heat wave make sure that you stay cool, stay covered and stay sun safe! Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, and too much sun can increase your risk. Exposure to sunlight can also affect your eyes.
In 2010, around 100,000 people were diagnosed with skin cancer in the UK. More than 12,000 of these cancers were malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Each year, around 2,200 people die from skin cancer.
Skin cancers are caused by damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Protecting the skin from the sun can help prevent these cancers.
How does the sun damage skin?
UV rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage cells. These cells are then at risk of becoming cancerous. You can’t feel UV damaging your skin and it happens even when the sun doesn’t feel hot.
Getting sunburnt causes the top layers of skin to release chemicals that make blood vessels swell and leak fluids. Skin turns red and feels hot and painful, and severe sunburn can lead to swelling and blisters.
Who’s at risk?
Skin cancer can affect anyone, but people most at risk have:
- fair skin that burns in strong sun
- red or fair hair
- a lot of moles or freckles
- a personal or family history of skin cancer
- already had sunburn, especially when young
People with naturally brown or black skin are less likely to get skin cancer as darker skin has some protection against UV rays. However, skin cancer can still occur.
Even if you cover up there are other ways that you can stay cool in the sun:
- drink plenty of water
- stay in the shade between 11am – 3pm
- take rest breaks if you’re out and about
- wear sunscreen above SPF15 and cover up in the sun.
To see Kent County Council’s advice on being cool in the sun go to: http://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/keeping-cool-in-hot-weather
NHS Choices has some great online advice about how to stay sun safe – click on the relevant link below:
- NHS Choices Sunsafe advice: www.nhs.uk/livewell/skin/pages/sunsafe
- NHS Choice Sunsafe Q & A: www.nhs.uk/livewell/travelhealth/pages/sunsafetyqa
- NHS Choices keeping your children safe in the sun: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/safety-in-the-sun