With Summer almost over, we’re all embracing the longer nights and warmer temperatures whilst they’re still here! August is a really popular time to take a holiday too, and with many of us venturing abroad, it’s important to know how to enjoy the sun safely.
The sun can affect our bodies in different ways – both good and bad. With help from the Dermatology team at Bupa UK, we’ll talk you through the lasting effects the sun can have on our health, and why we should be checking our skin regularly for changes.
Aside from sunburn, what other effects can the sun have on our skin?
The sun affects our skin in lots of different ways and can be good for our health in small amounts. It’s been known to enhance your mood, relieve stress and provide you with Vitamin D that’s essential for keeping our bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
But too much UV exposure can damage our skin and impact our overall health. It can lead to serious health problems, like skin cancer. Overexposure can also cause wrinkles to appear.
Why do some of us get freckles after being in the sun?
Freckles appear on your skin as light brown spots. They’re a sign of exposure to the sun and they usually appear on your face and arms. They’re more likely to appear if you’re fair-skinned and if you burn easily. Freckles are harmless; but you should keep an eye on them as you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer if you get them.
Can our eyes be affected by the sun?
UV can also damage the cells in your eyes if they’re not protected when you’re out in the sun. Most types of eyewear, including glasses and contact lenses, should absorb the UV rays. When you’re out and about in the sun, you should also make sure you’re wearing sunglasses because they help block out the sun’s UV rays. It’s important to check your sunglasses to see how much protection they offer your eyes.
Can UV exposure cause skin cancer?
Yes. There are two main types of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma – and both can be caused by overexposure to UV. Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in melanocytes. These are cells that make a pigment called melanin when your skin is exposed to the sun. Some of the first signs of melanoma are often the appearance of a new mole, or a change in appearance to an existing mole.
Non-melanoma skin cancer usually develops on the outer layer of your skin and can be seen in the appearance of a new lump that is firm and has lots of blood vessels in it. It can also appear as a red, scaly patch on your skin that has a raised edge around it. This type of cancer tends to develop in areas of the skin that’s been exposed to the sun.
How can I check my skin for symptoms of skin cancer?
One of the first signs of melanoma cancer is the appearance of a new mole, or a change in appearance to an existing mole. You should check the appearance of your moles regularly so you can monitor any changes closely. There’s a simple way of checking too. This is through the ABCDE method:
A – Asymmetry. Do both halves of the mole look the same?
B – Border. Is the edge of the mole uneven or blurred?
C – Colour. Is the mole a mix of different shades or colours?
D – Diameter. Is it bigger than 6mm from side to side? (As a tip, the end of a pencil is about 5mm across)
E – Evolution. Has the mole changed?
Non-melanoma cancer tends to develop through spots and sores. You should regularly check your skin and look for new spots, lumps, sores or red patches on your skin.
What can I do to lower my risk of skin cancer?
Your risk of developing skin cancer can be lowered by taking care of your skin when you’re out in the sun. Spending time outside is important because a small amount of sun can be good for our health. But make sure you’re using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The sunlight is at its most intense between 11am and 3pm, so try to stay in the shade between these times. Don’t use sunbeds and make sure you’re also checking your skin regularly.
What can I do if I notice my skin has changed?
Checking your skin monthly will help make it easier to spot when something isn’t right. If you find something unusual, or if you’re worried about any of your moles, you should always go and see your GP to get it checked out. They may refer you to a clinic at your local hospital for further checks.
Alternatively, you can get your moles checked at a Bupa clinic, and you don’t need to have our health insurance to receive this treatment.
It’s important to make sure you’re taking care of your skin and staying safe in the sun, and if you are worried about anything, get it checked out.