Skin safety in the summer sun

If there’s one thing that most people agree on at the moment, it’s that lockdown has been made much more bearable by the fantastic (and rather unBritish-like!) weather. April was the sunniest on record, with the daily temperature, on average, 3.1℃ higher than usual, and meteorologists predict that 2020 could prove the hottest year yet – good news for us Brits facing the prospect of a holiday on home shores this summer!

While this is undoubtedly helping many of us get outside for our daily exercise and giving our mental health a welcome boost during Coronavirus, the extended sunny spell is not without potential setbacks. According to Cancer Research UK, there were 16,200 new cases of melanoma – a type of skin cancer – in 2015-17, and more than 2,300 deaths. And NHS figures show that there are 147,000 new cases in the UK each year of non-melanoma, the more common type of skin cancer that is particularly prevalent in men and older people.

But with 86% of melanoma cases being preventable, read on to find out how to stay safe in and enjoy the summer sunshine!

The signs of skin cancer

Symptoms of skin cancer to watch out for include a new mole or changes to an existing mole, freckle or patch. These changes could include the area getting bigger, changing

colour, bleeding, scabbing over or becoming itchy or sore.

Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) light damaging our skin cells. You’re more at risk if:

  • You have pale skin and / or freckles
  • You have red or blonde hair and blue eyes
  • A close relative has had melanoma skin cancer
  • You have previously experienced skin damage, such as through sunburn or radiotherapy
  • You have a condition that suppresses your immune system or you take immunosuppressant medication 
  • You have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer

Skin cancer usually appears on visible parts of your body, such as the face, neck, back and legs, but it can form anywhere – even under your nails or the soles of your feet – and it’s important to get anything unusual checked out. During Coronavirus, you can still phone your surgery with any concerns. Many GPs are now offering video appointments in the event of the surgery being closed to patients.

Preventing skin cancer

Prevention is always better than cure and, no matter how enticing the sunshine is, it’s essential to take precautions to lower your risk of getting skin cancer, and particularly the risk to babies and children. These include:

  • staying in the shade between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest
  • Covering up with white or light clothing and wearing a hat when the sun is particularly hot
  • Protecting your eyes with sunglasses with wraparound lenses or the CE Mark and British Standard Mark, and never looking directly at the sun 
  • Using a sunscreen of at least factor 30, reapplying it frequently and especially after being in water
  • Keeping babies out of direct sunlight
  • Never using sunbeds or sunlamps 

It’s important to remember, however, that the sun’s rays also bring great health benefits, such as creating vitamin D in our bodies, which supports our immune system, balances our mood and helps prevent heart disease. To find out more about getting the right amount of vitamin D, read our article. 

And if you’re struggling to sleep during the warm weather, we can help there too! Read our blog on sleeping in the heat – some of the tips may surprise you!

Plutus Health provides cash-back health plans helping individuals, families and businesses with the cost of everyday healthcare such as dental and optical treatment, physio, chiropractic and podiatry and some hospital costs. To find out more, call our team on 01633 266152.

Leave a Comment