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Stay safe this summer

04 July 2018

With Britain basking in a Heatwave, some of us are daring to dream that 2018 will be the year when summer lasted for more than just a few days!  With this in mind and with further good weather predicted, Doctor Maria Finnegan, Private GP at Spire Washington, has some top tips for keeping your skin safe in the sun:

“Whilst most people will top up their supply of sunblock before going abroad on their summer holidays, I think that people are still generally quite poor at blocking up when the sun comes out here in England.  It may be a feeling of wanting to ‘get the sun while you can’ or a belief that you can’t get ‘properly burnt’ here, but the risk of burning here on sunny days is very real and just one bad sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life.

“Often, the danger is when there is a bit of cloud cover or a breeze that is making everything appear cooler, as this tends to lull people into a false sense of security.  While clouds may make it feel as if you’re protected from the sun, they actually block more visible light than ultraviolet rays, which means that the sun can still cause skin damage or sunburn on cloudy or windy days and obviously, on clear blue days like those we're enjoying at the moment, that risk of sunburn and long term skin damage is even higher.

“If the risk of skin cancer isn’t enough to have you reaching for the SPF, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of skin damage that causes ageing is secondary to sun exposure and Dermatologists now actually recommend that we wear sunscreen all year round, regardless of our skin type and even in the not-so-sunny North East.

“Government figures show that rates of skin cancer continue to rise with at least 100,000 new cases being diagnosed each year, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths, and so my advice is that with your skin, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and that if you are outdoors in summer, take care. Just because you can’t feel the burn doesn’t mean you aren’t burning”.

Dr Finnegan’s top tips for looking after your skin in the sun:

  • Everybody needs sunblock, regardless of your skin colour. Use a minimum of SPF 30/broad spectrum UVA sunscreen and re-apply every two hours or after you’ve been in the water. If you have fair skin, go for the highest SPF you can find - my go to is SPF 50 in summer and SPF 20 for the rest of the year.
  • Wear protective clothing – the tighter the weave the better the protection.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat that covers your ears, the back of your neck and the top of your head (particularly important if you’re bald).
  • Don’t forget to put sunblock on the tops of your ears, the back of your neck, the bridge of your nose and around your eyes (including the middle part) - a common area for skin cancers and signs of ageing.
  • Believe it or not, the sun can even cause cancer in your retina, so make sure that the sunglasses you wear have good UV protection.
  • Don’t forget your lips. I now make sure that any lipsticks or lip balms that I use, have SPF built in.
  • Whenever possible, stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm when its rays are at their most damaging.
  • Finally, get to know your skin and if you notice any changes, particularly in moles, ask your GP to take a look.

For more information on Spire Washington Hospital, or to book an appointment with Dr Finnegan, search ‘Spire Washington Hospital’ or call 0191 418 8687.

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