Skin cancer - prevention is better than cure

Maya Driver

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You may not realise it, but skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. It is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet rays found in sunlight and also sunbeds. Since here in the UK we rarely see the sun, many people are fooled into thinking they are safe from UV rays. This is not the case. In the UK where the sun is not as strong as hotter countries, you can still get burnt, even on overcast days. You are especially at risk if you have fair skin and freckles.

Early signs of skin cancer can be spotted if you check your skin regularly. Look at the NHS website and Cancer Research for detailed information on checking for moles. If you spot cancer quickly, there are various treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and these are often successful. But it is far better to take precautions before it is too late. Protecting yourself against skin cancer is easy to do.

If you are particularly at risk then you should wear sunscreen at all times. Even if you have dark skin and do not burn easily, you should still wear a hat and try to keep out of direct sunlight for long periods. Babies and young children have very delicate skin and must always be covered up in the sun. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and a broad spectrum, meaning that it protects against the different types of UV rays. Also remember that one application of cream or spray isn't really enough - you have to keep applying it every 2 hours as long as you are in the sun.

If you still want a tan and decide to use a sunbed instead of the real thing - beware, it can be just as dangerous, if not more so. Sunbeds also have UV rays that harm the skin. Many people assume that sunbeds are a safer way of tanning but in fact some sunbeds have higher intensity UV rays than the sun.

The safest way of getting a tan is to use a fake spray tan or tinted moisturiser. This way your skin will not be damaged by UV rays. But remember that you must still use sunscreen over your fake tan when you go out in the sun!

Do you always protect yourself from the sun? Or are you a sunbed addict? Leave a comment and share your experiences.