‘Cover up, Mate’ to protect against skin cancer

We have had some lovely hot sunny weather in East Surrey over the past few weeks, but with the sunshine unfortunately comes an increased chance of getting sunburnt. This summer we are encouraging everyone to ‘Cover up, Mate’ to protect themselves against sunburn and skin cancer. Most skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light damaging the DNA in skin cells and the main source of UV light is sunlight.

Research shows that men seem to be worse than women at protecting their skin in the sun.  People who work outdoors such as farmers, builders, gardeners and sports people are at greater risk of skin cancer, as are those with fair skin, moles, freckles, red or fair hair, or light-coloured eyes.  However, as lots of us enjoy spending time outside with friends and family when the sun is shining, we can all stay safe in the sun by following the same simple advice: 

  • spend time in the shade, particularly when the sun is strongest between 11am-3pm
  • make sure you never burn
  • cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
  • take extra care with children
  • use at least factor 30 sunscreen and reapply every few hours.

When choosing sunscreen look for one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB and a 4-star UVA protection. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat will shade you face, neck and ears, and a lightweight long-sleeved top will keep the sun off your arms and shoulders.

It is fantastic to be outdoors in the sunshine, especially after a long, cold winter, but we all need to realise that the sun can be powerful no matter what time of the year. UV rates are highest from March to October and you can still get sunburn on cool days as you can’t feel ultraviolet (UV) rays.

We often think that a tan is a sign of health but it is in fact a sign of skin damage.  Remember that the earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat, so see your GP as soon as possible if any moles or freckles change size or shape.

Find out more about staying safe in the sun on the NHS Choices website: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/sunscreen-and-sun-safety/