For the last decade or so Australians have been bombarded with information about the harmful effects of the sun, but it seems that we, along with others from all over the world, are still ignoring the advice and are continually exposing ourselves to not only the minor dangers but also the life-threatening concerns like skin cancer.
We all know that sunshine feels good; sometimes nothing invigorates you more than heading outside and feeling the warmth of the sun beating down on you. The one thing we all need to remember is that as in all things moderation and precaution are always wise.
Before you next head out to soak up the sun’s rays try to remember these points.
A suntan is not a sign of good health. It’s actually a sign that your skin has been damaged by the sun (ultraviolet radiation). When your skin is damaged by these rays melanin (the chemical responsible for skin colour) comes to the surface for protection against anymore harmful rays. Your skin becomes darker as more and more melanin is required for protection to help with the damage already caused.
The most dangerous type of skin cancer is the malignant melanoma, while not as common as other forms it can be fatal. At most risk are those with fair hair and skin, freckles, those who have difficulty tanning and tend to burn easily in the sun, and those with a family history. Though the good news is that if found early often melanomas can be easily and successfully treated.
Of course skin cancer is not the only problem caused by the sun. It can also cause premature ageing, wrinkles, dark spots (sometimes called age or liver spots) and rough or scaly patches of skin. It can also cause cataracts and other eye problems.
Another major point to remember is that ultraviolet radiation cannot be felt on your skin, so just because you don’t feel yourself burning doesn’t mean that you’re not. Ultraviolet radiation can damage your skin just as easily on an overcast day as what it can when the sky is clear.
Next time you plan on spending any amount of time outside, just remember to take a few precautionary steps. Not only should you use sunscreen, you should also keep yourself covered when possible and always wear a hat. As an often repeated commercial in Australia states: Slip, Slop and Slap – slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. Try not to be in direct sunlight in the middle of the day as this is when the ultraviolet index is very high: if it’s necessary remember to Slip, Slop and Slap before going outside and to reapply if you’ve been swimming, have sweated a lot or towel dried your skin etc.