Sun Awareness Week runs from the first Monday in May, to the following Sunday. The week is part of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) national campaign ‘Sun Awareness’, which aims to raise awareness around skin cancer and help people enjoy spending time in the sun without causing damage to their bodies.
When travelling abroad, one of the things some holidaymakers look forward to most is time away in a warmer climate with more sunshine. The sunshine can have a positive effect on our mood as well as some health benefits, however, it’s important to stay safe in the sun and avoid too much sun exposure which can lead to painful sunburn. Everyone is affected by damage to the skin from the sun, in fact, last year, 35% of people in the UK were burnt at least once, with 28% of those being burnt more than three times during the year.
To mark Sun Awareness Week, we’ve put together a handy guide to staying safe in the sun with some simple tips to try the next time you’re enjoying time in the sunshine.
What is the sun awareness campaign?
The campaign is organised by the BAD’s Skin Cancer Prevention Committee, comprised of leading medical professionals with expertise in skin cancer, vitamin D, and public health messaging. The campaign is two-pronged and combines prevention and detection advice.
The first aim is to encourage people to regularly self-examine for skin cancer. The second is to teach people about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning and to discourage people from using sunbeds, in light of the associated risks of skin cancer.
What damage can the sun cause?
As well as painful sunburn that can be very uncomfortable, over-exposure to the sun’s rays can cause serious damage to your body, with two common types of cancers. One being non-melanoma, and melanoma, which is by far the most dangerous and deadly skin cancer - a simple reason enough to look after your skin and be safe in the sun.
Top five tips to enjoy safe sunshine
1. Clothing and a hat
Clothing should always be your first line of defence against damage from the sun. Cover as much of the skin as is possible, paying special attention to the shoulders which burn easily. Consider t-shirts and hats even when in the water, especially for children and those who burn easily. A 'legionnaire' style hat with a wide brim is best, as it will shade the head, face, ears and neck. Baseball caps do not shade the ears or neck, and so are not as effective.
UV radiation can also damage the eyes, and so sunglasses with good quality lenses that filter out the UV are essential. Those with an EU CE Mark are proven to offer safe protection. Styles that wrap around, and so do not allow the sun in at the sides are better.
3. SPF 30+ Sunscreen
No sunscreen provides absolute protection, so it should be used with the other lines of defence, and not alone. Generously apply sunscreen with SPF30 or more to all areas of skin exposed to the sun. Waterproof sunscreen is better, even if you are not swimming, as it protects you better if you sweat.
Apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside, and at least every 2 hours. If you swim or sweat a lot, use it more often. Remember using a towel or lying back on a fabric sunbed can rub the sunscreen off.
SPF stands for 'Sun Protection Factor' and refers to the level of protection against UVB radiation, linked to skin cancer. Look for a 4 or ideally 5 star UVA rating on the bottle which will help protect from UVA radiation, associated with skin ageing. Check the expiry date of your sunscreen, as out of date sunscreen will not be as effective and you risk burning. And don't forget to protect your lips - using a SPF30+ lip balm.
Keeping cool in the shade is a good way of protecting yourself from the sun, especially if you are very fair-skinned. Just 10 minutes of strong sunshine is all it takes to burn pale skin. Find some shade whenever possible, but especially in the middle of the day, between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. Always keep babies and toddlers in the shade if you can.
5. Finally - IF IN DOUBT, CHECK IT OUT!
Most skin cancers can be cured if detected early. About once a month, check your skin for moles or marks that are changing or new. This is especially important if you are at increased risk of skin cancer. Tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin, or a new mole or mark on adult skin.
Find out more about travel insurance cover and skin cancer here.Find out more