GPs in Lewisham are reminding people of the risks to health posed by sunburn and excess tanning as part of national Sun Awareness Week (6 – 13 May).
With warmer weather ahead, people are being urged to stay safe in the sun by protecting themselves against ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage our skin and cause skin cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, nine in 10 cases of melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer – could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding sunbeds. Getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
There are two main types of UV rays that can pose a risk to our health:
- UVA – penetrates deep into the skin. It ages the skin, but contributes much less towards sunburn. UVA rays are used in tanning beds.
- UVB – affects the top layer of skin and is responsible for the majority of sunburns. UVB rays can burn unprotected skin in just 15 minutes.
We all need exposure to the sun so our bodies: it helps us get vitamin D to maintain strong and healthy bones and there are benefits it can have on our mental health.
However, too much UV radiation can damage DNA in skin cells and cause skin cancer. One way to work out how strong the UV rays are is by the length of your shadow – if it is shorter than your height then the sun's UV rays are strong and you are more likely to burn.
Dr Angelika Razzaque, a local GP and Clinical Director of NHS Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:
"Several measures can be taken to prevent skin cancer, the most obvious being to apply sunscreen (make sure the sun protection factor is at least 15 and has four or five stars).
"Wearing darker clothes that cover your shoulders and have long sleeves gives you more protection from the sun, especially if they have an UV Protection Factor of 40 or higher.
"With up to 10 per cent of skin cancers occurring on the eyelid, wearing sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection can also help you stay safe in the sun."
Between April and September, it is advisable to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest in the UK. Extra care should be taken to ensure that babies and children are protected from the sun – particularly those aged under six months.
For more information and advice on staying safe in the sun in the UK and abroad, visit the sunscreen and sun safety page on the NHS website.
Heading to the Phoenix Festival 2019 this weekend?
If you're attending this year's festival, come along to meet members of the NHS Lewisham CCG team. We'll be talking about ways to enjoy the great outdoors while staying safe in the sun.
When: Saturday 11 May, from 12noon – 5pm
Where: Forster Memorial Park, Whitefoot Lane, SE6 2BL