Safe in the sun

Lead­ing der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr Ta­mara Grif­fiths offers her ad­vice on mak­ing the most of the sun­shine this sum­mer

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Re­bekka O’Grady

Take care of your skin and pre­vent can­cer

As sum­mer time ap­proaches, peo­ple are ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing the warm weather that we have waited so long to en­joy. How­ever, with longer days and soar­ing tem­per­a­tures comes a higher risk of harm­ing our skin through sun dam­age.

Dr Ta­mara Grif­fiths, on eof the coun­try’s lead­ing con­sul­tant der­ma­tol­o­gists and hon­orary lec­turer at the Uni­ver­sity of Manch­ester, has ad­vice about safety in the sun and what we can do to en­sure our skin is protected. Ta­mara prac­tises both in the NHS and the pri­vate sec­tor, and is also a trustee of the Bri­tish Skin Foun­da­tion, and di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion at the Bri­tish As­so­ci­a­tion of Der­ma­tol­o­gists.

“UV stands for ul­tra­vi­o­let ra­di­a­tion, which is emit­ted by the sun and con­sists of a broad range of wave­lengths, in­clud­ing UVA and UVB rays. Th­ese wave­lengths can pen­e­trate cloud cover, and UVA can even pen­e­trate win­dow glass,” ex­plains Ta­mara, who has ap­peared on BBC’s Hori­zon pro­gramme and been listed as one of Tatler’s top der­ma­tol­o­gists.

“UVB ir­ra­di­a­tion causes sun­burn, which can lead to a build up of dam­age in the skin caus­ing skin can­cer. UVA ir­ra­di­a­tion pen­e­trates more deeply into the skin and can re­sult in pre­ma­ture skin age­ing.”

To help pre­vent dam­age from th­ese wave­lengths, we are en­cour­aged to use sun pro­tec­tion fac­tor, or SPF. SPF is ac­tu­ally a rat­ing sys­tem mea­sur­ing UVB rays which cause sun­burn. The higher the SPF the less UVB ir­ra­di­a­tion to the skin, and the more ef­fec­tive the sun­screen is at pre­vent­ing sun­burn.

“If you wear SPF 20 this means 1/20th of the burn­ing ra­di­a­tion will reach the skin as long as the sun cream is ap­plied cor­rectly,” says Ta­mara. In other words, it will al­low the wearer to stay out for 20 times longer than with­out pro­tec­tion, be­fore burn­ing. But the cor­rect amount, and fre­quent reap­pli­ca­tion, is re­quired for it to re­main ef­fec­tive, espe­cially when swim­ming or with per­spi­ra­tion. It’s also worth check­ing the ex­pi­ra­tion date on the bot­tle, as the ef­fec­tive­ness of sun pro­tec­tion may be com­pro­mised with time.

“An­other rat­ing sys­tem is the five-star sys­tem that mea­sures UVA ra­di­a­tion, which is the wave­length that pen­e­trates deeper into the skin. The higher the num­ber of stars, the stronger the pro­tec­tion. The com­bi­na­tion of UVA and UVB pro­tec­tion is re­ferred to as broad spec­trum.”

To en­sure that your skin is fully protected, it’s best to ap­ply

sun pro­tec­tion be­fore go­ing out, espe­cially in the sum­mer or on a sunny hol­i­day. When it comes to chil­dren, their skin is espe­cially sus­cep­ti­ble and there are prod­ucts that are child-friendly.

“In ad­di­tion to sun cream, pro­tec­tive cloth­ing such as hats and swim­ming cos­tumes that cover the shoul­ders can be help­ful,” adds Ta­mara.

Of course, some­times even the most con­sci­en­tious of sun cream wear­ers can be caught out with sun­burn, so if you do experience the painful red burn Ta­mara ad­vises you to avoid fur­ther sun or to cover up to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age. “Cool com­presses and men­thol creams, as well as ibupro­fen or paracete­mol, may help al­le­vi­ate symp­toms of pain and dis­com­fort. How­ever it will not pre­vent dam­age to the skin, as the dam­age has al­ready oc­curred,” she says. “Blis­ter­ing is a sign of sig­nif­i­cant dam­age, it is usu­ally best not to dis­rupt them, but med­i­cal ad­vice should be sought if there is se­vere blis­ter­ing and other signs of be­ing un­well.”

Sadly, too much ul­tra­vi­o­let ra­di­a­tion from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin can­cer, and ac­cord­ing to Can­cer Re­search UK al­most nine in ten cases of melanoma, the most se­ri­ous type of skin can­cer, could be pre­vented through en­joy­ing the sun safely and not us­ing sunbeds.

“Those with fair skin, blue eyes and blonde or ginger hair are at higher risk of de­vel­op­ing skin can­cer,” says Ta­mara, who also ex­plains it’s not just on your sum­mer hol­i­day where you should be aware of safety in the sun. “Out­door work­ers or those who en­gage in out­door sports or hob­bies (a prime ex­am­ple is gar­den­ing) also have a higher risk due to cu­mu­la­tive sun dam­age over the years.”

If you’re con­cerned about any­thing on your skin, make sure you speak to your GP. There are warn­ing signs on our skin we should look out for, says Ta­mara. “Moles that are asym­met­ri­cal, or with ir­reg­u­lar colour or bor­der, may need to be checked or mon­i­tored, as well as any moles that are chang­ing or which stand out com­pared to others.

“A slowly pro­gres­sive sore which doesn’t heal is an­other warn­ing sign. If in doubt, it is best to seek med­i­cal ad­vice.” N

In ad­di­tion to sun cream, pro­tec­tive cloth­ing such as hats and swim­ming cos­tumes that cover the shoul­ders can be help­ful

Ta­mara Grif­fiths, con­sul­tant der­ma­tol­o­gist at Bow­don

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