Skin cancer warning as heatwave goes on

WEEKEND revellers could be putting themselves at huge risks if they don't cover up in the sun this weekend, a doctor has warned.Dr Tim Cutler, dermatologist at Ipswich Hospital has warned that being in the sun for long periods of time without protection could be "terrible" for skin.

WEEKEND revellers could be putting themselves at huge risks if they don't cover up in the sun this weekend, a doctor has warned.

Dr Tim Cutler, dermatologist at Ipswich Hospital has warned that being in the sun for long periods of time without protection could be "terrible" for skin.

This weekend hundreds of people are expected to flock to Felixstowe for the annual carnival, while others will be packing the seats at Portman Road for the Blues' match against Reading.

And standing for hours in the hot sunshine without any protection could mean people getting some nasty burns.

Dr Cutler has warned people not to forget about looking after their skin as they plunge into the weekend revelries.

He said: "The risk of skin damage varies from individual to individual.

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"But three hours unprotected exposure to the sun would be bad even for Afro-Caribbean skin.

"For anyone else it would be terrible."

And it is not just people who are sunbathing or standing around in the sun who are at risk of getting burned.

Anyone out in the sunshine without any protection could be at risk from skin cancer.

Dr Cutler said that it is believed most non-malignant skin cancers, are caused by a cumulative effect of sun rays on the skin over time.

However he added that there is also some thinking that short, intense blasts of sun, such as annual two week holidays or heatwaves like the one Britain is experiencing now, could cause malignant melanomas - the more aggressive form of skin cancer.

But he said that being aware of the risks and taking precautions does not mean that people should not go out and enjoy the good weather.

He said: "I love this weather and I love the heat.

"But I do like to have some protection between me and the sun."

Awareness of skin cancer has grown over the last ten years but according to Cancer Research UK thousands more Britons than Australians die from the disease even though more cases of the disease are diagnosed in Australia.

The charity launched the Sun Smart campaign in a bid to raise awareness and promote safety in the sun.

But a survey commissioned for the charity found that there was a big gap between what people knew about skin cancer and exactly how much they did to protect themselves.

SKINFILE

There are three types of skin cancer – the two most common are Basal Cell and Squamous Cell which are easily treated and rarely fatal.

The third and most dangerous is malignant melanoma.

More then 65,000 cases of skin cancer were reported in 1999 and more than 2,000 people in the UK die every year as a result.

The number of cases has more than doubled in the UK since the 1980's.

WHAT CAUSES SKIN CANCER?

Ultraviolet light from the sun is the main cause.

UV radiation is made up of UVA and UVB rays – UVA ages the skin and UVB burns it.

UV radiation is not felt as heat on the skin so even a cool and cloudy day can be just as damaging as a clear and sunny day.

It is likely that most skin damage from ultra violet radiation occurs before the age of 20.

It is a build up of overexposure to the sun over a period of several years which it is thought could lead to the development of skin cancers.

Children and young adults who have been overexposed to the sun have an increased risk of developing some form of skin cancer.

Skin cancer can take up to 20 years to develop so damage done in younger years may not show until middle age.

TOP PROTECTION TIPS

Stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.

Do the shadow test – if you can't see your shadow at all or if it is shorter than you are then you are surrounded by UV rays.

Wear clothes made of close-knit fabrics and hat that has a wide enough brim to shade the face neck and ears.

Make sure the hat has a close knit weave that UV rays won't be able to get through.

Use sun screen that is at least SPF15 and says broad spectrum on the bottle.

Broad spectrum means that it protects against both UVA and UVB.

BUT don't let sunscreens lull you into a false sense of security and think it is safe for you to stay out in the sun longer – sunscreen does not prevent skin cancer it just reduces the amount of exposure to UV rays.

If you stay out in the sun longer because you are wearing sunscreen you might not burn but you are still exposing yourself to higher levels of UVA radiation and are unprotected from the dangerous genetic changes in the skin that occur after sun exposure.

Throw out old sunscreen – it loses its ability to protect after its expiration date.

Wear sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection to reduce your risk of getting cataracts and retinal damage.

Lips are particularly prone to skin cancer so wear a lip balm of at least SPF 15

Two thirds of sun damage is done before the age of 15. There is convincing evidence that malignant melanoma is linked with sun exposure and sunburn in childhood.

Sun exposure in childhood also impacts how many wrinkles you have got at 40.

Information source www.cancer.about.com

www.cancerbacup.org.uk

www.cancerresearchuk.org

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