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Protecting your skin from the sun


Summer is here and it is that time of year again when schools will be breaking up for the summer holiday and people will be planning to have outdoor barbecues. Whatever your plans are, it is important you protect yourself from the sun.

Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun – did you know more than 13,000 people living in the UK develop skin cancer each year compared to 1,800 in the mid-1970s? People who are at risk of getting skin cancer include those who have pale skin, a history of sunburn or a family history of the disease.

Jacqui Jones, skin cancer clinical nurse specialist at Good Hope Hospital, highlights the three main types of skin cancer: “Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer and starts developing from basal cells. Basal cells are situated around the hair follicle and this type of skin cancer will develop mainly in areas exposed to the sun though it can develop anywhere on the skin.

“Secondly squamous cell cancer will also develop in areas that have been exposed to the sun. However squamous cell skin cancer will start in cells lining the top of the skin.

“Melanoma is a less common but serious type of cancer that begins in the skin and can spread to other organs in the body. More than 2,000 people in the UK every year die due to melanoma.”

Most cases of skin cancer can be cured and treated if found early. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the main treatments available to help treat skin cancer.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the sun and prevent skin cancer? Jacqui says: “Spend time in the shade when the sun is strong. Trees, umbrellas, canopies or buildings can all provide shade and help you protect your skin.

“Avoid getting sunburnt.  Every time the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays, this increases the chance of skin cancer occurring. You should apply a good sun protection factor (spf) sunscreen before you go out in the sun so the cream can be absorbed. You will need to apply sunscreen regularly if you are going to be spending time in the sun. You will also need to re-apply it if you have been for a swim.

“Wear clothes that provide protection from the sun if you are going to be working outdoors. This should include a hat to protect your face and scalp and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

“Lastly, avoid using sunbeds. Sunbeds can damage your skin and cause premature wrinkles.

“You can still go out and enjoy the weather but make sure you take steps to help protect your skin. Looking after your skin and making healthy lifestyle choices will help prevent skin problems.”

For more information on how to stay safe in the sun, visit the NHS Choices website at

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