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Be sun safe this summer

Main image 16 June, 2016

There’s nothing like the long days and nights of sunshine to make it feel like summer.

Whether enjoying the warmer weather at home or planning an annual beach holiday, soaking up the sun is high on most people’s list of priorities when summer finally arrives.  

And while we all crave the healthy looking glow that comes with a holiday, sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer at every age. Enjoying the sun safely means you can get your recommended intake of Vitamin D without exposing yourself to too much risk.  

Common sense sun safety 

Staying safe in the sun is as simple as following a few common sense rules to keep you and your family safe. Always remember to:  

  • Spend time in shade when the sun is strongest – The sun is at its most powerful between 11 am and 3 pm. Seek shade and protect your skin with a combination of extra clothing and sunscreen.
  • Wear sunglasses – Exposing your eyes to the sun can result in a burn to the surface of the eye, even from reflected surfaces. Sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful rays, with the added benefit of looking good.
  • Cover up – There’s no safe or healthy way to get a tan, and it won’t protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Cover up as much as possible when the sun is its hottest; wide-brimmed hats and lightweight cotton clothing can prevent burning sensitive skin.
  • Use sunscreen – During the summer, get into the habit of wearing sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy. It’s not just about avoiding burns; too much sun exposure can cause skin to age prematurely and bring on premature wrinkles and sun spots on the hands.

Understanding SPF

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, a unit that measures the amount of UBV – ultraviolet B radiation – protection a product offers. 

Sunscreens are rated on a scale of 2 to 50 based on their level of protection, though not all factors are created equal; SPF15 sunscreen will filter out 93% of UBV radiation, while SPF 30 filters out 96%, and SPF50 filters out an estimated 98%.   

The star rating on the other hand measures a sunscreen’s UVA protection. The higher the star rating the better. In the EU, the UVA protection should be at least one third of the SPF value. You’ll know your sunscreen offers both UVA and UBV protection if it’s called “broad spectrum”.  

Choosing the right sunscreen is only half the battle; most adults don’t apply enough sunscreen or reapply regularly enough.

If you know you’ll be in the sun for extended periods of time – enough that you might risk burning – apply 30 minutes before you go outdoors and again just before you leave. A good amount if you’re covering most of your body – for example at the beach – is roughly two tablespoons for your head, arms, neck and legs.

Water washes sunscreen off and should be reapplied as soon as you’ve been in water – even if it’s labelled water proof or water-resistant.

Protecting moles

Overexposure to sun increases the risk of developing skin cancer – in the UK, 2,000 people a year die from malignant melanoma.  

Checking moles regularly can help you spot any warning signs of melanoma, as the first stage often sees a new mole appear or a change in an existing mole. The good news is, precancerous moles are very easy to treat – suspicious moles can be removed under local anaesthetic.   

The earlier it’s treated, the better; if you are worried about your moles or notice any changes, book an appointment at YourGP.

From our clinic in Edinburgh we can undertake minor mole removal and help advise how to keep you an your family sun safe this summer. Use our online booking form to book an appointment, email our reception team at reception@your.gp or call us on 0131 225 5656.

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