BOLTON has been basking in glorious sunshine for two weeks — hallelujah, the Great British Summertime is not a myth.
But the clear blue skies and powerful sun rays pose a serious risk to our skin, according to experts.
Every time you go out in the sun without protection on, you are in danger or serious sun damage or, worse, skin cancer.
Caty O’Neill is a clinical nurse specialist for skin cancer at the Royal Bolton Hospital and sees scores of people with sun-damaged skin every week.
Mrs O’Neill said it is vital to wear sun protection every day, even if you spend a modest amount of time outdoors.
From the 10-minute walk from your car to shopping in your lunch hour, Mrs O’Neill said it is easy to get caught out.
“It only takes five minutes to damage your skin,” she said.
“Whether you’re pegging your washing out or walking to the shop, you’re still be exposed.
“When your skin is pink or red, that’s a burn, leaving you vulnerable to more damage in the future.
“If you spend a lot of time outdoors and are of a certain skin type, you are definitely more at risk.
“But that’s not to say people who work indoors shouldn’t protect their skin either.
“Even though I spend most of my time inside doing clinics, I always where factor 50 under my make-up on my face and 30 on the rest of my skin. That way I know I’m protected when I go outdoors.
“We’re not saying people should never spend time outdoors or never go on sunny holidays. We’re just encouraging people to protect themselves and their families from sun damage.
“I would recommend always wearing a hat and sunglasses and reapplying sun cream every four hours — especially on children.
“It’s also important to give yourself a break from the sun between noon and 4pm by sitting in the shade.”
Sun damage occurs when ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage cells. These cells are then at risk of becoming cancerous.
There are two types of rays — UVB and UVA. UVB rays cause the skin to burn and potentially cause cancer.
UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin. These cause the skin to age and can trigger skin disorders.
Experts recommend you find a sunscreen which protects you against both UVB and UVA.
Mrs O’Neill said: “When it comes to sunscreens, I recommend you go for a well-known brand with a high factor.
“Most people tend to only wear between factor 15 and 20 when really you should go for 30 or 50.”
The effects of sun-damaged skin can be deadly if not detected and treated early.
Education on skin cancer has improved, yet it is still the most common form of cancer in the UK and rates continue to rise.
At least 100,000 new cases are now diagnosed each year, and the disease kills more than 2,500 people each year in the UK — that is seven people every day.
There are three types of skin cancer — malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
Melanoma is the most serious and a potential killer.
One of Mrs O’Neill’s patients, who asked not to be named, said she was shocked when she discovered she had melanoma on her left arm five years ago.
The 65-year-old said: “My husband first noticed the mark on my arm. I’d got them all over, so I didn’t think anything of it.
“But then it started changing colour, so I went to the doctors and that week I found out what it was. I had it removed immediately and it wasn’t very painful.
“It was more the shock of being told I had it. I have always kept myself covered up and had never been a sun worshipper.
“The only thing my husband and I thought could have caused it was going on long car journeys when we went on holiday. We think it could have been the sunlight coming in through the car window. Either way, if I can get it — anyone can.”
Experts say young people are particularly reluctant to protect their skin and actively seek a tan, either through hours of sunbathing or, worse, using sunbeds.
Mrs O’Neill said: “The older generation seemed to have taken the education on board, but with younger people it is more difficult.
“A lot of girls and boys in their early 20s use sunbeds and cannot always comprehend the risk of skin cancer.
“I try to explain the effects in terms of the ageing effect it has on your skin. By the time they are 30, they could look 10 years older than their friends.”
- For more information about protecting your skin, go to britishskinfoundation.org.uk.