In the summer months we all like to bathe in what little sun there is in the UK, but this year with above average summer temperatures it’s time to start rethinking the way in which we view sun damage and when it can affect us. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK with more than 100,000 people in 2010 being diagnosed with it, resulting in 2,200 related deaths. Although it can be hereditary, skin cancer is mainly caused by damage from the sun’s UV Rays.
The sun damages the skin when UV rays penetrate the skin and damage cells. These cells can then become cancerous. If your skin is burnt the top layer of skin releases chemicals that make blood vessels swell and leak fluids causing the skin to get hot, go red, and in severe cases blister and swell. Although harmful to all, burning is especially dangerous to young people; Katy Scammell of Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign states that “Sunburn in childhood can greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life”. Although you can’t feel sun damage, it occurs even when the sun isn’t hot and everyone is susceptible to it.
We all know the basics of how damaging the sun can be but rarely do we think about the impact it is having upon our eyes. The sun can burn your eyes too. Long term exposure to the sunlight increases the risk of a type of cataract and is also linked to growths on the surface of the eye. Simon Kelly explains how “the sun can permanently scar the retina, the area at the back of the eye responsible for vision,” so taking precautions is important. When buying sunglasses remember not all are adequate for protecting your eyes. Choose glasses with CE Mark and British Standard (BS EN 1836: 2005), a UV 400 Label, or a statement that the sunglasses are 100% UV protection. Remember too that the size and shape of your sunglasses will also determine the protection given to your eyelids and skin around your eyes.
Checking moles and freckles regularly for change in size or bleeding are vital, and you should contact your GP if there are any signs. The earlier caught, the easier it is to treat. Being safe in the sun doesn’t just apply to when you’re abroad, “Sun protection is something you need to be aware of everyday in the summer”. Spending time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, avoiding burning, covering yourself with a t-shirt, hat, sunglasses, and using factor 15+ sunscreen, are all ways in which you can reduce the chances of damaging your skin from the sun. It’s also a given that you should avoid sunbeds at all costs.
(Image: Panama Hat from B London Boutique)