Our block with sun protection

If you take your health and wellbeing seriously, you are not alone. More than ever, we understand the importance of creating good habits to avoid illness and disease. So why do many of us still struggle with the idea of sun protection? Michelle Baker, CEO of the Melanoma Fund explores the dichotomy, debunks your excuses to set you on the right path.

Becoming the best version of you is a quest – more a marathon than a sprint. We might never reach the desired effect – who knows how we would look and feel if weʼd have done everything we could to be in the very best health?

As a quest it is not easy, with lots of dastardly distractions and is a balance between the mental and physical. You must work at it, engage discipline, create good habits, and most importantly stick with it. With time, the sacrifices become more bearable and even enjoyable, and then the magic then takes over. You feel and look GREAT. Becoming mindful around your health not only improves your life and looks, but also lowers your susceptibility to the nasty surprises guaranteed to catch you on the curve. From heart disease, joint issues, diabetes, to some types of cancer, which will sadly affect 1 in 2 of us. Many of us do all we can to avoid the ʻBig C’ for good reason; from quitting smoking, limiting our alcohol intake, managing our stress, and watching our weight. We check our ʻboobs ʻn’ balls’ for lumps and bumps, and get ourselves to the GP immediately if we do spot anything sinister.

So why is it that so many of us refuse to take the warnings around skin cancer and sun exposure seriously?

Despite the overwhelming body of research, that proves categorically just how dangerous too much UV exposure can be, a recent survey* undertaken by Melanoma Fund, reveals that only 42% of golfers use sunscreen when the weather required it, and a massive 72% never reapply it when on the fairway. With nearly 30% admitting they avoid sun protection, in favour of a tan, it could be that many of us are in denial. If so, it is time to get some things into perspective.

Getting the habit

To make it clear, you absolutely need to wear sunscreen every time you plan to go outside for longer than 20 minutes, no matter what the weather forecast predicts. If this idea makes you cringe, let us explore why, your excuse, and see if we can quash it!

“But I love a tan”

Be honest, you may be thinking, ‘I look so healthy with a tan – and so much better looking!’ Firstly, there is no such thing as a ‘healthy tan’ as it actively works against your prized looks. UV rays break down the collagen in your skin making it wrinkled, discoloured, and leathery. Those who shun sun protection end up looking a good 10 years older than their age, compared to those who regularly protect their skin.Solution: Fake it every time.

“My skin is strong!”

If you feel your skin is seasoned to the sun, think again. Although it appears to be thicker and more resilient, it has been weakened over the years, and probably looks a lot worse for your age than you would credit. As a result of neglect in the sun, it will bruise more easily, which is certainly not healthy look. If you feel it hasn’t been affected, take a good long look at your face and arms. If you have those brown scaley spots, known as solar keratosis, this is a form of sun damage which indicates your skin is struggling, and can be a pre-cursor to skin cancer.Solution: Look objectively at your skin. If it is struggling, help it this summer.

“Skin cancer happens to others”

Aside the aesthetic issues, which may hopefully be enough to send you scuttling off to the chemist, the sun’s most serious threat is that it is the major cause of skin cancer, which is now the most common of all cancers
put together, especially affecting those who shun sun protection. There are nearly 152,000 new non-melanoma skin cancer cases reported in the UK every year, that’s more than 410 every day (2015-2017). Although men are more prone, women are still susceptible.Solution: We all know someone affected by skin cancer. Ensure that someone is not you.

“I avoid a greasy sport grip!”

Many of us will go out to play tennis, cricket or golf wearing sunscreen, but dread re-application due to getting their hands greasy, which feels horrid and affects their grip. To be effective, sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours, even a ‘once a day’ product, as it can easily be rubbed or sweated off.Solution: Simply use a chubby stick, an applicator or use a small damp towel to wipe hands clean.

“I simply forget”

Do you forget to clean your teeth twice a day? Do you forget to put a mask on when you enter a shop? Do you forget to put your seatbelt on? Of course you don’t because you take your health and those risks seriously. Not wearing sunscreen simply means you have not developed this as a habit, something you could start, right now. Solution: As above. You can DO this!

“I wear it abroad but not in the UK”

With sunscreen advertising regularly featuring beaches and sparkling seas, it is easy to think that sunscreen is reserved for our summer holidays, instead of a daily requirement here in the UK. The fact is that the sun can be just as hot in the UK as in the rest of Europe. The weather can also change from rainy to scorching within an hour, so don’t get caught out!Solution: Keep a bottle in the car, your kit bag or in your gardening bag. Keep it handy!

“I use it on my face but not on my body”

This is a typical attitude, but again it is simply a habit. All areas are prone to sun damage, and that can be evidenced by looking at the arms and legs of someone over the age of 50. This skin is aged by the sun in the same way as your face. Melanoma in women in most common on the legs, and in men on the trunk, so remember to cover all exposed areas and re-apply every two hours if out for a prolonged period. Solution: Simply continue down after applying it to your face, on all exposed areas. The fact is that skin cancer, unlike lots of other cancers, is totally avoidable. If any of the above resonates with you, get wise, quit the excuses and start getting into better habits – it’s never too late.

About skin cancer

Although not all types of skin cancer are fatal, all types are invasive, traumatic, and scaring, prone to being cut out in areas such as your face, which can be really debilitating, so never underestimate it.

There are two main types, non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and the most serious type which is malignant melanoma.

Although rare, rates of melanoma have more than doubled in the UK in the last 30 years, with incidence in women having doubled (100% increase) and for men nearly tripled (181%). It is one of our fastest rising cancers, and although still higher in older people, rates in 25–49-year-olds increased by 70% over the same period*. Global cases will reach nearly half a million (466,914) by 2040, an increase of 62% on 2018 figures.

Skin checking

The key to successfully treating melanoma is by early detection, which makes checking regular skin another important health habit for everyone. However very few of us do this monthly, even though this is strongly recommended by dermatologists. The key is understanding why you do it and what to look out for. Start taking your health seriously, by adding sun protection to your game and skin checking to your routines from this summer.

For further information,
visit www.melanoma-fund.co.uk