Have a Sun-safe Summer!
The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out today
Now we’ll all be happy, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out today
These chorus lyrics from the smash hit 1986 London and New York revival of the 1937 Musical, Me and My Girl, express our natural delight in getting out into the warm summer sunshine after winter cold and gloom. But in 1937 the public who went to London’s Victoria Palace to see Lupino Lane in Me and My Girl were unaware of the dangers of over-exposing their bodies to that hip-hip-hip hooray summer sunshine. It was not until 1956 that Australian Harry Lancaster discovered that exposure to the sun’s UV radiation is directly linked to the incidence of skin cancer.
We now know that the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, (and tanning beds), play an important role in the development of melanoma and are the leading cause of three skin cancers that can kill; (malignant melanoma, squamous, or basal cell carcinoma).
To quote the Cancer Council of Australia website, “A tan is not a sign of good health or wellbeing, despite many Australians referring to a ‘healthy tan’. Almost half of Australian adults still hold the misguided belief that a tan looks healthy. Tanning is a sign that you have been exposed to enough UV radiation (from sun or solarium) to damage your skin. This will eventually cause loss of elasticity (wrinkles), sagging, yellowish discolouration and even brown patches to appear on your skin. Worst of all, it increases your risk of skin cancer.
There are a number of simple prevention steps that adults should take, and children must take to enjoy sun-safe relaxation or activity in the summer sunshine.
- Avoid prolonged periods in the sun from 10am–4pm when the sun’s UV rays are at their most strong.
- Wear protective clothing. Essentials are a hat with a brim that shades your ears and neck and a tight-weaved shirt covering your shoulders and arms.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ if going out to enjoy the sunshine. Look for a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB sun radiation and apply 20 minutes before going outside. Re-apply regularly approximately two hours thereafter while in the sun.
- When choosing sunscreen, read the label before you buy. Choose a sunscreen with “broad-spectrum” protection that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreen products protect against UVB rays, which cause sunburn. But UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging.
- Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. Higher SPF numbers do mean more protection, but the higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. For instance, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%; SPF 50 sunscreens filter about 98%, and SPF 100 filter about 99%. No sunscreen protects you completely.
- If you are in or around water, use a water-resistant sunscreen, (no sunscreen is waterproof or sweatproof), and remember to cover all exposed skin as water reflects UV rays. Sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry after swimming, so you will need to put more on.
Countries mark broad spectrum protection differently. Only products that pass a test can be labelled “broad spectrum” in USA.” In EU/UK a product that achieves at least a third of the labelled SPF will be labelled with the letters UVA printed in a circle. Sunburn in children and adolescents can double the risk of later skin cancer. Babies in particular have sensitive skin and can burn easily. They should be protected by a sunshade from the sun’s UV radiation from the day they were born. Children learn by imitation. If adults adopt sun protection behaviours, the children in their care are more likely to do the same.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most preventable risk factor for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma. But too many adults and their children are still not regularly using sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays. As a result melanoma is possible.
A survey of 2,000 shoppers by UK supermarket Asda has found that a third of sunseekers do not use any UV resistant sunscreen before venturing onto the beach and over a quarter use cooking oils such as olive and coconut oil instead of sunscreen in the hope of getting a quicker tan. As a result, over three quarters of the respondents admitted to suffering from sunburn – and the future possibility of a skin cancer.
Following their survey, Asda have added a warning on the labels of some of their cooking oils,” Our cooking oils are great for the kitchen but are definitely not designed for the beach.”
The use of cooking oils on the skin for sun protection instead of a UV limiting sunscreen is a recipe for sun-safe disaster, particularly for young children whose tender skin is easily burned by the sun’s rays.While these oils may great culinary and dietary use, their UV limiting factor is dangerously limited and minimal. Olive and coconut oil have an SPF of just 8 for instance.
Sunscreen and sun safety
Sun protection habits can reduce skin cancer risk.
Sun protection and infants.
Sunscreen Fact Sheet
The Sun has got his hat on! Hip-Hip-Hip Hooray!