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Sun Awareness Week 4th-10th May

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) currently runs a national campaign around skin cancer called Sun Awareness, which includes national Sun Awareness Week in May. This campaign is overseen by the BAD’s Skin Cancer Prevention Committee, comprised of leading medical professionals with expertise in skin cancer, vitamin D and public health messaging.

Sun Awareness is the British Association of Dermatologists’ annual campaign to raise awareness of skin cancer. The campaign runs from April to September annually and includes Sun Awareness Week in May. The campaign is two-pronged and combines prevention and detection advice. The first aim is to encourage people to regularly self-examine for skin cancer. The second is to teach people about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning, and to discourage people from using sunbeds, in light of the associated risks of skin cancer.

We are currently in a global pandemic which has left a lot of us working from home/ furloughed and with plans cancelled. Being stuck indoors may be tedious so getting outside for some fresh air or sunbathing in your garden may seem like a good idea. If you protect yourself from the sun, then sitting outside/ having our 1 hour of daily exercise outside will cause you no harm.

However, too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged. The damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight. 

When the sunlight is intense, it would be sensible if you also followed the guidance below to protect yourself. You should take particular care if you have: 

  • fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans; 
  • red or fair hair and light coloured eyes; 
  • a large number of moles.    

Harmful effects

In the short term, even mild reddening of the skin from sun exposure is a sign of damage. Sunburn can blister the skin and make it peel.  Longer term problems can arise. Too much sun speeds up ageing of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled. The most serious effect is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.

What you can do to protect yourself 

  • Keep your top on
  • Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck. 
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time. 
  • Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin. 
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 

Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.