The sun & skin cancer

12 Jun 2016

No tan is a healthy tan. New guidance from the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence, (NICE) warns that there is no safe or healthy way to get a tan from sunlight.

The health watchdog’s latest guidance also suggests that an existing tan provides little protection against new sun exposure. It also recommends we use a minimum of factor 15-sun cream, with adults urged to use between 6-8 teaspoons (35ml) per application. Any benefits of building up Vitamin D from the sun has to be balanced with the risks of skin cancer.

Recently, Hugh Jackman has spoken out about his own person struggles with the disease after having had several sun-related cancerous growths removed and is now urging others to get regular skin checks and to wear sunscreen. This should be something we do religiously, incorporating it into a healthier lifestyle.

Although many people in the UK have low levels of Vitamin D and some exposure to sunlight is needed, it’s important we learn and understand how to balance the risks between one and the other.

It’s impossible for us to get enough Vitamin D between the months of October and March in the UK, it’s also not possible for us to get the same levels of Vitamin D sat next to a closed sunny window.

We must think about the following:

  • Apply enough sunscreen for a safe tan, but not too thinly as that reduces the amount of protection it gives;
  • Don’t sit out between the hours of 11am and 3pm, which is the hottest time of the day;
  • Factor 30 sunscreens although they offer protection, doesn’t mean people can spend longer in the sun;
  • Continue to apply sunscreen at intervals, after being in the water, after sweating, after towelling dry and if and when the sunscreen rubs off;
  • Cream should be applied half an hour before going out into the sun and then again before sitting out in the sun;
  • Babies and children, who are either fair skinned, or have freckles, as should those with a family history of skin cancer;
  • If you are out in the sun exposure your skin gradually so that you’re not sat outside for hours and build up your tan;
  • Those with fair skin who are constantly exposed to the sun because of their jobs are more at risk of sun damage and skin cancer.

Finally, the sun not only changes our DNA, which means we’re more susceptible to skin cancer and the effects of the disease, but the sun also ages us and our skin prematurely, as in effect we’re living with damaged skin. It’s also important regardless of whether we’re sunbathing to wear an SPF on the face.

4 Responses to “The sun & skin cancer”

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  1. Randy 12. Jun, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    Well, seeing as I seemed to have inherited the English skin, I basically only burn and don’t get anywhere near a tan.

    People were joking with me about how white my legs were yesterday, but I don’t get out much. I’m not a sunbather which is probably a good thing; considering my pasty white skin. I really don’t like putting on all that sunscreen since I have tactile issues and don’t enjoy feeling like a greased pig.

    I only made the mistake of getting a really bad sunburn once where my skin felt like it was on fire and going to tear apart at any second so never did that again. I have already had a mole removed near my ear that they said was cancerous so I’m not going to take chances.

    I see a lot of tourists, who are pretty obvious sunbathers who look like strips of bacon and I cringe. I’ll have to stick with taking Vitamin D since I couldn’t build up enough of it the natural way, without turning my skin into leather!

    It would be nice to get out to do more things considering you do have to take advantage of the weather, but thanks to the agoraphobia and my light skin, it probably isn’t going to happen.

    I just try to remember that I’m not actually a vampire so I can go outside if I need to without bursting into flames! It could be a lot worse.

    • Ilana 12. Jun, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

      Yes, I think we’ve always got to be careful with moles. Even if we’re sure of what they are, it’s always important to get them checked out.

      It’s true that as time moves on we learn more about disease and are more aware about what we should and shouldn’t do, which is good. I know two people who have had skin cancer; one died and one thankfully is okay.

      Living in hot countries makes us more prone to problems with the sun of course, but I would still go with the saying that ‘No tan is a healthy tan’ and I stand by that for all the reasons outlined in my blog.

  2. Brad 13. Jun, 2016 at 7:17 pm #

    So sorry to hear Randy. I have inherited my dad’s olive complexion and I tan without even trying. My face and hands are dark all year round and my legs and body are whiter than a very white thing!

    I agree there is no such thing as a safe tan, although I do feel the benefit of sitting out when it is warm; I tend to wear a sun hat.

    All good advice there on how to avoid getting burnt.

    • Ilana 13. Jun, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

      Thank you. It’s much easier with an olive complexion of course, but I would still advocate that no tan is a healthy tan.

      I have a fair complexion and look insipid most of the year, but I look a lot younger for my years because I choose not to sit out in the sun.

      I also choose to play it safe against the known risks of sitting out in the sun.

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