Sun safety

As a GP I am made aware of the damage that the sun can do to skin. I see lots of people with problems caused by overexposure to the sun or by sunburn. The worst of these are skin cancers, including melanoma.

During the summer you should cover up with sun hats, long sleeves and plenty of sunscreen. It’s funny that we sometimes call this ‘suntan lotion’. It is designed to block the harmful effects of the sun rather than make us bronzed!  My girls use fake tan to look bronzed which is safer and doesn’t damage your skin.

Hopefully we will have a lovely hot summer but remember to take extra care if you are in the sunshine between 11am and 3pm.  We should expose ourselves to the sun in moderation.  A short burst of sunbathing can make us feel great and look healthy. Too much makes the skin old, dry and wrinkly and can cause skin cancer.

You should take extra care in the sun if you:

  • have pale, white or light brown skin
  • have freckles or red or fair hair
  • tend to burn rather than tan
  • have many moles
  • have skin problems relating to a medical condition
  • are only exposed to intense sun occasionally – for example, while on holiday
  • are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
  • have a family history of skin cancer

People who spend a lot of time in the sun, whether it’s for work or play, are at increased risk of skin cancer if they don’t take the right precautions.  People with naturally brown or black skin are less likely to get skin cancer, as darker skin has some protection against UV rays. However, skin cancer can still occur.  The Cancer Research UK website has a tool where you can find out your skin type to see when you might be at risk of burning.

Babies and children are particularly susceptible to sunburn so please get them to wear a high factor sunblock and a sunhat when it’s hot.  Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life. Children under the age of six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.

If you do get sunburnt you don’t need to go your GP or hospital, but it will be painful for a few days. Drink plenty of water, take painkillers and use an after-sun lotion.


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