How to

22 May 2017

Simple Steps to Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer This Summer

With warming weather comes some noteworthy risks to our health, I’m sorry to say. While we all enjoy a bit of sun, especially given how rare the phenomenon seems to be in the UK, overexposure can result in painful sunburn or, over time, decidedly-dangerous skin cancer. We’re not at all suggesting that you should avoid the sun altogether, as doing so would create problems of its own, but there are some simple precautions you can take to lessen the chance of hearing the dreaded C-word.

Limit Your Exposure with Shade and Clothing

This is especially pertinent between 10am and 4pm, as during this time the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Overexposure is, really, the underlying cause of all sun-related conditions, so make sure to protect yourself during peak times by seeking shade, wearing loose fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and retreating inside when necessary. If you must venture out for prolonged periods during this time, pay particular attention to my next point.

Sunscreen is Vital

I’m sure you’re all aware that when planning to spend extended periods of time in the sun, for example on a day trip to the beach, making sure to properly apply sunscreen is the best way to avoid burning. However, many still make mistakes when it comes down to which to use, how much, and how often.

To be blunt, sunscreens with an SPF rating of 15 are, by-and-large, pointless. They offer very little protection as compared to their more burly counterparts, and so a higher rating in recommended by medical professionals. For lengthy excursions on a sunny day, an SPF of 30 or above is highly recommended. It is also important to ensure that you are using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, one which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The UVB rays can cause highly unpleasant sunburns, whilst UVA rays may contribute to premature aging and skin cancer, and so both should be avoided where possible.

Reapply every two hours, or as soon as possible after swimming for you beach-dwellers.

Avoid Burning

This may seem obvious, given the painful and aesthetically-displeasing nature of sunburn, but avoiding such occurrences is actually more important to your long-term health than you may realise. Each and every time you allow your skin to burn, you are raising your likelihood of contracting skin cancer. Combine the above advice and retreat out of the sun if you feel your skin is close to burning.

Stay Away from Tanning Beds

Tanning beds are infamous for their contribution to skin cancers amongst their users, given the way in which they concentrate UV rays upon your body. The best practice is to avoid the use of such devices altogether; if you want to tan, do it the old fashioned way, but remember to be careful nonetheless.

Protect Newborns and Young Children

Newborns and young children are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of UV rays.
It is advised by the Skin Cancer Foundation that babies under 6 months should be kept out of the sun at all times. With older children you should remain vigilant, and take care to properly and regularly apply sunscreen and limit their exposure as mentioned above.

Examine Your Skin

Check your skin regularly for the presence of moles. While usually harmless, they can provide an early warning of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation advised keeping an eye out for what they call the ABCDE signs of melanoma, which are as follows:

Asymmetry - Asymmetrical moles are often a warning sign of skin cancer.

Border - A benign mole will generally have a smooth, even, and clearly-defined border, whilst melanomas will present with an uneven edge which may be scalloped or notched.

Colour - The majority of benign moles will be entirely one colour; if a mole is instead a variety of colours ranging from shades of brown and black through to red, white, or even blue, that is a sign that something isn’t right.

Diameter - While benign moles tend to be smaller, melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a standard pencil-tip eraser, around a quarter inch or 6mm.

Evolving - Benign moles remain constant, melanomas do not. If you notice that a mole is changing in any way, perhaps in size, colour, elevation, or any other trait, see your doctor.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.