Skin cancer 'can be avoided in many cases'

30 March 2012

The UK has been soaked in hot spring sunshine for the latter half of March, with even more clear spells expected in the lead-up to summer.

However, Brits would be wise to make sure they are taking precautions every time they step outside to ensure they are not putting their health in substantial danger.

Bevis Man, from the British Skin Foundation, pointed out that people should be taking action to protect their skin no matter the time of year.

This means applying moisturising products during the winter months and slapping on sunscreen once temperatures begin to rise.

"We know that getting sunburnt substantially increases the risk of developing skin cancer at a later stage, so if there are ways in which we can protect the skin, we ought to," Mr Man acknowledged.

Skin cancer is still a big problem in the UK, with 11,767 new cases of the malignant melanoma form of the disease diagnosed in 2008 alone.

On top of this, there were 98,800 people found to have suffered from non-melanoma skin cancer during the same year.

Mr Man stated: "Thousands upon thousands of people are diagnosed every year in the UK with some form of skin cancer, and the truth is that in many cases, it's an avoidable condition given behavioural change."

One of the main causes of skin cancer is overexposure to the sun, as UV light can cause substantial harm to skin cells. Too much damage could lead to the development of skin cancer.

However, there are many simple-to-follow tips that can be used to prevent being struck down with the potentially life-threatening disease.

For one, suncream with a high sun protection rating – usually 30 or above – should be worn whenever the mercury is reaching high levels. Such a product should be applied regularly throughout the day, especially if a person has taken a dip into a swimming pool or the sea.

"We often forget to apply sunscreen to areas like the back of the neck and the ears, as well as the feet if we wear open-toe shoes of any kind, so it's really a case of being more attentive to these areas," Mr Man also advised.

The skin should never be allowed to burn either, with those witnessing this problem encouraged to retreat to a shaded area to allow their bodies to cool.

Clothing is also important when heading out into the sun. Materials made from cotton and natural fibres offer good protection to the body, while a wide-brimmed hat will keep harmful sun rays away from the face. A pair of dark-tinted sunglasses should also shelter the eyes from danger.

Mr Man was keen to state though that the advice does not mean that people should stay inside anytime the sun comes out or the temperatures begin to rise, but just to take a sensible approach when in the heat.

He also pointed out: "It's really a question of understanding your skin; those with very fair skin are far more likely to burn easily than those with very dark skin, so you'll have to tailor your approach to sun protection to suit your needs."

In fact, a little exposure to the sun could do the body a world of good, as Arthritis Research UK acknowledged that the vitamin D which comes from sunlight has plenty of health benefits.

According to the organisation, a body with plenty of vitamin D can better fight against bone loss, rickets, muscle function issues and multiple sclerosis.

"Our advice to people is to step outside as this is the best way to get vitamin D.

"Don't allow your skin to go red, and take care not to burn, particularly in strong sunshine and if you have fair or sensitive skin," noted Alan Silman, the medical director of Arthritis Research UK.

Posted by Philip Briggs


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