23 June 2017

Sun Protection


Are we doing enough for ourselves and our children?

Every year there are around 46,000 new cases of skin cancer in the UK with 2,000 lives lost annually and numbers are rising. Indeed, skin cancer now claims more lives in Britain each year than Australia. Although the message of sun safety is widely known, these figures indicate that many people have not used adequate protection. Recent research reveals that consumers are most likely to use sun protection products when going on holiday abroad, with far fewer doing so as a matter of routine during the summer months in this country. Research also indicates that some 58% of consumers are 'relaxed' users who claim never to wear suncare or use it very infrequently.

Why does skin need protecting?

There are three different types of ultraviolet rays that are emitted by the sun; heavy exposure to any of these can be harmful to the skin:

UVA: Responsible for tanning and ageing

UVB: Responsible for burning and blistering the skin

UVC: The most dangerous to the skin but filtered out by the Earth's ozone layer What is sun-induced skin cancer?

There are three main types of skin cancer:

i) Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of skin cancer in humans but easily treated. It can appear as a small translucent growth or a pink/red patch of skin which bleeds easily.

ii) Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This can occur as a thickened, scaly lesion and may also develop in old burns or scars. SCC is also quite a common form of cancer but luckily does not often spread to a secondary stage.

iii) Melanoma
This can appear either as a lump or scaly area that is red or pale in colour, or it can grow from an existing mole that may become itchy or irregular in shape. Malignant melanomas are the most dangerous form of skin cancer affecting around 5,000 people annually in the UK. But don't panic - by and large these are treatable if caught in time, so be sure to check your moles regularly and consult your GP if you find anything of concern.

How can I protect myself?
The key to selecting the correct SPF product for your skin type is knowing the length of time your skin takes to burn in the sun and the length of time you intend to stay out in it. Sunscreens are rated according to their SPF which is the protection against UVB and the star system which protects against UVA. The following chart explains the level of SPF needed for each skin type: Time it takes to burn/SPF:
Immediately Type I (Pale, freckled) SPF 35+
10-15 minutes Type II (Pale) SPF 25+
20-30 minutes Type III (Quite pale) SPF 15+
45 minutes Type IV (Olive) SPF 8-15
1 hour Type V (Asian) SPF 6-12
1 hour 30 minutes Type VI (African) SPF 4-81

Also remember some fundamental sun safety tips:
. Ideally avoid the sun altogether between 11am-3pm when the sun's rays are at their peak
. Cover up with lightly coloured, tightly woven fabrics and accessories such as hats and sunglasses
. Babies under 6 months old need to have a high factor sunscreen on (e.g. SPF 50) and be kept in the shade at all times
. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated

How does Sensitive Skin react in the sun?

Infants and children need to take extra care in the sun because they have delicate skin which burns easily. Choose an SPF of at least 25 for children, and a mineral-based sunscreen for babies under 12 months, whose skin barrier function may not be fully developed. Always keep babies under 6 months out of the sun completely.

Pale skin types
People with light coloured hair (blonde or ginger), fair skin, blue eyes and freckles, or those with dark hair but very pale skin, tend to burn rather than tan. They need a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 25.

Some people with eczema find their condition improves in sunny weather; others find that it worsens as the sun makes them feel hot and itchy. In every instance keep the skin well moisturised and wear sun protection specially formulated for sensitive skin.

Other conditions
Polymorphic Light Eruption (PLE) is a red, itchy rash that is thought to be an allergic reaction to sunlight. It is particularly common in women and is often mistaken for prickly heat. Sufferers need to use a high factor, broad spectrum sunscreen.

Vitiligo is a skin disorder where, due to an absence of the pigment melanin, people have patches of white skin. Since these patches have no natural protection, they will burn very quickly, and need a very high factor sunscreen.
What should I look for when buying sunscreen?

There is no such thing as a safe tan. Any tan is a sign of skin damage as this signals that the skin is under attack and is fighting to protect itself. Once UVB rays have penetrated the epidermis, melanocytes react by secreting melanin which results in the darkening of the skin. Protecting the skin with the right product is very important, so be sure to:

. Choose a sunscreen that contains the right SPF level for your skin - Skin Type I (red, blonde, freckled) needs more protection than Type IV (white with medium pigmentation)

. Select a sunscreen which offers Maximum 4 star protection against UVA rays (the star symbol can generally be found on the back of the pack)

. If you have sensitive skin or eczema, look for a sunscreen that won't irritate your skin.

Information supplied by E45

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