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Skin Health Q2 2022

Applying sun protection: the habit that all sportspeople need

Image provided by Melanoma Fund

Michelle Baker

CEO, Melanoma Fund

If you enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle, ensure your kit bag includes sun protection, closing the door on sunburn and the risk of skin cancer.

Many of us believe that sun protection is only relevant when on a beach holiday because that is how it has been sold to us and our parents before us. Look up ‘sunscreen advertising’ online and see for yourself.

Although we need sunscreen when in warmer climes, what about the accumulated sun exposure we experience in outdoor sport and recreation, both in the UK and abroad?

Skin cancer risk

Although physical activity is great for us and is associated with a reduced risk of most cancers, skin cancer is the exception. Both professional and amateur sportspeople regularly exceed the recommended ultraviolet exposure limit by up to eight-fold during the spring and summer months.

Currently, only 50% of people currently protect themselves from the sun when exercising outdoors in the UK. Factors such as sweating, water contact, minimal clothing and lack of shade whilst playing sport make it even more relevant. It is little wonder that since the early 1990s, rates of skin cancer in the UK have risen by 170%, with over 156,000 cases reported a year.

Only 50% of people currently protect themselves from the sun when exercising outdoors in the UK.

Sporting campaigns

The Melanoma Fund focuses on sun protection in sport and outdoor recreation and is the charity behind the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code for KS2 children, and Slip! Slap! Swing! for golf. They recognised there was a complete lack of sun protection guidance for adult sportspeople, and with the help of the UK sports industry, decided to fill it!

Supercharging sun protection

Sunguarding Sport launched this spring with the backing of over 60 national governing bodies including Sport England, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, the LTA and the ECB. It contains overall guidance for those participating, spectating and working in sport, as well as advice for specific sports, as requirements can differ.

The campaign addresses the barriers to application and re-application such as how to avoid a greasy grip, how to develop good habits, providing advice on heat exhaustion, the best sunscreen to use, dehydration and of course, avoiding sunburn.

Say’s CEO and campaign director Michelle Baker; “Our mission is to wake people up to the fact that like brushing teeth, sun protection needs to be part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just about avoiding skin cancer, it’s about sun damage – who wants to look older than their years, which will happen if you don’t protect your skin.”

For further information on Sunguarding Sport and the Melanoma Fund’s other campaigns visit

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