According to Cancer Research UK, malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and 1 in 54 people will be diagnosed with malignant melanoma during their lifetime.
Around 15,400 new cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK each year; that’s around 42 new cases diagnosed every day. Yet 86% of these could have been prevented.
So here are five ways you can protect your skin this Pride season
Use sunscreen – even on cloudy days
Applying sunscreen to your skin before you go outside during the summer months and on cloudy days (UV rays get through clouds) helps reduce the risk of skin damage. Sunscreens are useful for protecting our skin from the sun’s rays, but will not protect us completely from sun damage on their own. Use them together with shade or clothing to avoiding sunburn.If you have fair skin or if you burn very easily, you will need the highest level of protection. Even if your skin tends to tan rather than burn, it’s still important to take care in the sun and use sunscreen.If you have naturally brown or black skin, the extra melanin pigment in the skin cells may provide a bit more protection against harm from UV rays but sun protection is still necessary.
When choosing sunscreen, you should:
- Choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. The SPF provides protection against burning and UVB damage.
- Look for sunscreens that are labelled ‘broad-spectrum’ as this shows they protect you from UVB and UVA damage. This is shown using a star rating system, so look for at least 4 or 5 stars for good protection.
- Apply sunscreen liberally to clean dry skin, ideally before other skincare products.
- Apply approximately two teaspoons of sunscreen to cover your arms, neck and face, and up to two tablespoons to cover your body.
- Follow the manufactures instructions and re-apply frequently
- Re-apply after you’ve been in water. Sunscreen can be easily washed, rubbed or sweated off and even sunscreens that claim to be ‘waterproof’ should be reapplied after going in the water.
- Don’t forget to check the expiry date – most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years.
- Don’t store sunscreens in very hot places as extreme heat can ruin their protective chemicals.
- Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm
Midday hours are when the sun is at its hottest and highest in the sky. Find shade under trees, umbrellas, canopies or move indoors. A simple way to find out when the sun’s rays are at their strongest is to look at your shadow – if it’s shorter than your height, this means that the sun’s UV rays are strong and you need to be particularly careful.
- Cover up
When there’s no shade around, cover exposed areas, such as your arms or legs (close-weave clothes offer the most protection against UV rays) and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head.
- Wear protective sunglasses
Overexposure to UV rays can damage the eyes too. Too much UV can lead to cataracts and rare types of eye cancer.
When choosing sunglasses look for the following:
- The ‘CE Mark’, which shows they conform to European standards
- The British Standard (BS EN 1836)
- A UV 400 label or 100% UV protection label.
- Avoid sunbeds
Sunbeds are a risk factor as it exposes the skin to high levels of radiation. Ongoing concern about the use of sunbeds has led to the use of them being banned by law to anyone aged under-18 in the UK. If you’re keen to have a tan, the safest way to achieve it is to use fake tan.
For more information on staying safe in the sun, please visit AXA PPP healthcare.