VOL: 100, ISSUE: 22, PAGE NO: 33
- Excessive exposure to sunlight is implicated in skin cancer and premature ageing of the skin.
- In the UK there are 69,000 cases of skin cancer each year (Cancer Research UK, 2004).
- The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation, either from the sun or from artificial sources.
- The incidence of skin cancer is increasing in the UK population year on year.
- Part of the reason may be our changing lifestyles, for example more people are sunbathing and taking holidays in hot climates.
WHY IS SUNLIGHT HARMFUL?
- Sunlight contains both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Exposure to UVB increases the risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
- UVB is responsible for sunburn.
- Exposure to UVA causes ageing of the skin.
- There is concern that UVA increases the risk of malignant melanoma.
There is a classification system for skin types based on a person’s complexion and responses to sun exposure.
- Type I: Very sensitive, always burns, easily goes very red in sunlight, never tans;
- Type II: Very sensitive, always burns, goes red after sunlight, minimal tan after;
- Type III: Sensitive, burns moderately, goes red, tans gradually with a light tan;
- Type IV: Moderately sensitive, rarely goes red, tans easily, goes brown;
- Type V: Minimally sensitive, rarely burns, goes brown always, develops a dark brown tan;
- Type VI: Never burns, always deeply pigmented, dark tan.
- 2004 is the second year of Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign, which is a joint initiative with the government.
- The campaign is based around a five-point SunSmart message, to help people remember how to be safer in the sun and protect against skin cancer.
- Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm.
- Make sure you never burn.
- Always cover up with a T-shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
- Remember to take extra care with children.
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
- Apply sun lotion at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun.
- Reapply it every two hours.
- Reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming.
- Sunscreens are rated with an SPF. These refer to how long skin covered with sunscreen takes to burn compared with unprotected skin. For example, skin covered with a sunscreen rated at SPF15 will take 15 times longer to burn than bare skin.
- Because SPF factors only look at burning times, they apply only to UVB rays.
- In future sunscreens may also include better protection against UVA radiation.
- Patients should be advised not to stay out in the sun longer when using a sunscreen - in the belief that their skin is protected - as this increases their exposure to UVA.
- Experts still stress the need to use sunscreen but warn people not to rely solely on it.
Skin types - find out yours: www.dermatology.co.uk/sun/suncreamsandsuncare/article/article.asp?ArticleID=1506
SunSmart campaign: www.cancerresearchuk.org/sunsmart