Education Nurse, British Dermatological Nursing Group (BDNG)
Melanoma skin cancer rates have been rising faster than other common cancers. However, 90% of melanoma cases can be prevented by staying safe from the sun.
Skin cancer prevention is not exclusive to one gender, ethnicity or age group — we must all look after our skin. In the UK, summer begins in March and ends in October. The highest UV exposure occurs between 11 am and 3 pm, especially on hot, sunny days. However, even on cloudy days, UV exposure exists, so sun safety practices should still be followed. To practice sun safety, three concepts should be considered: clothing, shade and application of sun protection.
Sun protection with clothes and shade
When considering clothing, think of areas that are going to be exposed and keep them covered, especially in children. There are UV-specific garments that can be purchased. However, they can be costly, so the use of lightweight cotton or linen can be just as helpful.
The use of a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV 400 protection are also beneficial in protecting our face, ears and eyes. Avoiding prolonged periods of UV exposure during peak hours is just as important as clothing and sun protection. Staying in the shade also helps prevent overexposure to UV while providing respite from the heat.
Skin cancer prevention is not exclusive to
one gender, ethnicity or age group —
we must all look after our skin.
Understanding UV and looking after your skin
One common question is ‘What sun screen is the best?’ The answer is — whichever you prefer. If there is an SPF of at least 30 to protect against UVB and at least a 4-star UVA protection rating score, then no one brand is better than another. Be mindful that the star rating system is only applicable in the UK. Other brands may follow the EU standard.
Formulation is also important, especially for application adherence. Sun protection comes in a range of formulations such as creams, lotions, mousses and sprays. For those with underlying skin conditions or sensitive skin, the use of sun screens that contain mineral-based reflectors like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide may be more suitable.
The NHS recommends that sunblock is applied twice before you leave the house. The first application should be roughly 30 minutes before you leave then again before you head out. Reapplication should be every two hours or sooner if sweating or swimming. It should still be applied even when sitting in the shade.
Regular skin surveillance is also key in monitoring for signs of skin cancer. If you notice any moles or new skin lesions that may be changing or growing rapidly, seek advice from a medical practitioner.
NHS. (2022, December 19). Sunscreen and sun safety. NHS choices. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/seasonal-health/sunscreen-and-sun-safety/