Taking care of our skin in the sun is a must, melanoma skin cancer rates are consistently rising and hopefully with summer around the corner we should know how to protect ourselves.
Mr Paul Banwell, worldwide authority on skin cancer and Head of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit, East Grinstead, gives his top tips on how to enjoy the sun safely this summer:
1. Remember Slip, Slap, Slop.... And Wrap!
Cover up in the midday sun, wear a hat and definitely wear good quality sunglasses. The critical point on holiday is do NOT get sunburned. This really does increase your susceptibility to Skin cancer in later life.
2. Get Matey with your Moles
Look out for new or existing moles that are darkly pigmented, change in colour and/or size, have an irregular outline and itch, bleed or crust. If you are unsure or concerned that you may have one or more of these symptoms, visit your GP. They will examine your Skin and would be able to refer you to a Plastic Surgeon with a specialist interest in Skin cancer. If in doubt, do get them checked.
3. Beware of Sun Sensitivity
If you are taking prescription medication, ensure that you check the labels to see if they affect your body's reaction to the sun and heat, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. If you are pregnant, ask your doctor about the potentially harmful effects of heat, sun and fatigue.
4. Know your Sunscreens: Mineral vs.Chemical
There are two main types of sun Cream - chemical and mineral (physical). The main difference is that chemical sun care products contain UV filtering ingredients that take time to be absorbed by the skin - so need 20 minutes to absorb before sun exposure. Mineral sunscreens contain inert UV protective ingredients such as zinc oxide and form a protective barrier on top of the skin, so have an immediate effect. Some people who suffer allergies or sensitivities to chemical UV filters find that mineral SPFs do not irritate their skin. Zinc is also anti-inflammatory and does not block pores.
5. Reapply Sunscreen Regularly
Apply liberally and evenly every 4 hours and each time you get out of the water to ensure optimal protection. It's a Common mistake not to use enough sunscreen. If you are keen on water sports, it's especially vita to apply even more reguarly. Apply at least 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to each body part (leg, arm etc), plus a little bit more for luck! Don't forget the 'forgotten' areas such as ears and under the chin - or the soles of the feet if you are going to be lying down with them exposed to the sun.
6. Choose a Long-Lasting Sunscreen
I would recommend Piz Buin 1 Day Long Lotion as it provides 6 hours of long lasting SPF 30 protection in one single application. Its non-greasy formula is quickly absorbed and is seat and water resistant, making this a good choice for those who are not as diligent about reapplying sunscreen regularly.
7. Try a High Tech Sunscreen
Heliocare Gel Cream Colour SPF50 offers advances protection both on the skin and from within and is the only UV protection to contain Fernblock Photoimmunoprotection Technology. It's non-oily and easy to apply and also has a skin-tone enhancer that gives a healthy bronzed look and helps to mask uneven areas of skin tone and blemishes. Another one I'd recommend is Skin Ceuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF with titanium dioxide as it offers excellent protection with novel technology that makes it cosmetically elegant.
A good diet with plenty of healthy fruit and vegetables will ensure maximum benefit from antioxidants which help to strengthen the skin.
9. Get the Correct Amount of Vitamin D
Around 50 per cent of the adult population in the UK have sub-optimal levels of vitamin D and about 15 per cent have 'severe' deficiency during winter and spring. Exposure to the sun is essential for production of vitamin D by the skin. It is fine to have 20-to-30 minutes of exposure to the sun two-to-three times a week. It has also been shown that oral vitamin D might be beneficial to guard against melanoma, a potentially lethal form of skin cancer.
10. Don't Push your Luck in the Sun
It is possible that increased use of sun creams may give people a false sense of security which may encourage people to go into the sun more and, as a result, cause an increase in the risk of developing skin cancers. Sunscreens only partially protect your skin; therefore using sun cream does not mean that you can sunbathe for long periods without harm.