Your Doctor

Looking after your skin and health this summer

Summer comes with a whole host of benefits including warm, longer days, lighter nights, BBQ’s and beer gardens but this season can at times be unforgiving for those suffering from allergies and those who make the mistake of over-exposure in the sun.

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 2500 people in the UK dying from skin cancer every year, so it is vital to protect your skin. Over 80% of melanoma skin cancer cases are said to be preventable in the UK. Make sure you are effectively protecting your skin, keeping in the shade when appropriate, avoiding sunbeds and keeping an eye out for any new or changing lumps and bumps. 

Last summer, we saw the hottest UK summer on record with the seasons warmest day reaching temperatures above 35 degrees! This summer may be as hot, or you may be going abroad, so it is important to recap how to take care of yourself and stay healthy over the summer season with these important tips.

1. Understanding the sun – It is hard balance between getting vitamin D in the summer months from sunlight and over-exposing your skin to too much sun; and the advice over the years has been conflicting. We only need a little bit of time in the sun to clock up the necessary amount of vitamin D for our bodies. Too much exposure can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression and skin cancer. Wear a high factor sun cream and sunglasses to help prevent sun damage especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest. Did you know putting your mushrooms in the sun for half an hour will enable them to soak up as much vitamin D as a supplement?! Take the plastic wrapping off first.

2. Stay hydrated in the summer heat to flush out toxins, boost your immune system, prevent headaches, cramps and spots, for weight management and weight loss, and to increase energy and brain power. Try to drink at least two litres of water a day and increase this if you have been drinking alcohol. 

3. What do SPF numbers actually mean? – Many of us reach for a low factor sun cream because we think we will get a better tan but high factor creams do not prevent us from tanning they just prolong the length of time it takes to build up a tan and prevent you from actually burning when sun bathing. Use an SPF of at least 30 and reapply regularly. Children should wear 50 SPF.

4. UVA vs UVB - There are three wave lengths of ultraviolet radiation which we need to be aware of – UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, so it is UVA and UVB that we need to protect our skin from. UVA radiation causes sun-induced skin ageing such as wrinkles, leathery skin and brown pigmentation. UVB radiation is mostly responsible for causing sunburn and this is linked with malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (types of skin cancer). Stay out of the direct sun between 11am - 3pm, even more so in hot countries.

5. How to treat sunburn – Make sure you act fast if you can feel yourself getting burnt. This will lessen your chance of experiencing severe skin damage and improve your recovery time. 

• Go into the shade and cool the area with a damp towel for 10-15 mins 

• Moisturise 

• Hydrate by drinking a large glass of water.

• Avoid touching or scratching the area, cover up and avoid the sun

• Seek medical advice if blistering covers over 20% of your body 

6. Sun stroke – Sunstroke can result in a body temperature greater than 40c, red, dry or damp skin, confusion, headache, being very thirsty and dizziness. Onset can be sudden or gradual. Move to a cool place, lie down with your feet up, drink plenty of water or rehydration drinks, cool your skin and ask someone to fan you. Cold packs are also good. The best way to avoid sunstroke is to drink plenty of cold drinks, take a cool bath or shower, avoid the sun between 11 am and 3pm, and avoid extreme exercise and alcohol when its hot outside. If you feel really ill, have shortness of breath, or are unresponsive someone needs to seek medical help immediately. 

7. Regularly examine yourself – New moles, blisters or even scabs can be signs of skin cancer. Check your body from head to toe as often as possible, especially during the summer months. Be wary of any new spots or anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin. If you have any concerns, book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible to discuss this. 

FACTS

➢ Melanoma skin cancer - There are two common forms of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanomas are less common but are more dangerous. 70% of melanoma cases are not associated with existing moles and are more likely to appear as new moles or new patches of skin. Melanomas are often black, brown and pink, their edges may appear blurred or faded and they are usually 6mm or wider in diameter. 

➢ Non-melanoma skin cancer – Although more common, this type of cancer is considered less serious as it is less likely to spread to other areas of the body. This type is most commonly found in areas which are used to sun exposure such as the face, ears and hands. Non-melanomas differ as they appear as scabs that do not heal, crusty areas of skin or bumps that grow over time. This type of cancer crops up mainly after long-term sun exposure. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns.

➢ There is no way to safely use a sunbed - Those who use sunbeds increase their risk of melanoma by around 20% compared to individuals who have never used one before. Over 100 deaths in the UK are caused as a direct result of sunbed use every year. 

➢ Men are more likely to get skin cancer compared to women – 1 in 36 males and 1 in 47 females will be diagnosed with skin cancer in the UK because of behavioural differences. Men are perceived to be less likely to use sun cream effectively, look for or be concerned over any new lumps or bumps related to skin cancer or effectively treat instances of sunburn. 

If you have any concerns about changing moles, or would like advice on travel health or vaccinations, contact us on 0330 088 2020 or info@your-doctor.co.uk