As we approach the summer months, our patients often ask us how safe it is to spend time in the Sun. In this article, Dr Andrew Smith answers some of your most common questions and tells us what our doctors and surgeons look for when assessing sun-damaged skin.
How can the Sun damage my skin?
The Sun emits two types of UV (Ultraviolet) rays.
UVA penetrates deep into the skin and over time can lead to damage causing coarse wrinkles, dark patches and poor, leathery, skin texture
UVB is the main cause of reddening and burning of the skin and plays a major role in the development of skin cancer.
What can I do to prevent Sun damage?
Wear sunscreen with a high Sun protection factor (ideally SPF 50) every day, regardless of the season. If there’s daylight coming through, it’s sunlight.
Avoid using sun-beds as this will put you at high risk of permanent skin damage
Is there anything I can do to reverse sun damaged skin?
Sun damage is permanent but the effects of sun damaged skin, such as wrinkles and poor skin quality, can be improved. However, the best course of action is prevention. You can prevent further damage easily and very effectively by:
- Throwing out old Sunscreen – Sunscreen does expire and become ineffective, so make sure you replace your old SPF. Don’t keep using the bottle at the back of your cupboard!
- Upgrading the SPF rating and Star rating – Check that it is both UVA and UVB ‘Broad Spectrum’ protection. Use 50+ SPF with at least a 4+ UVA star rating. Lower ratings or SPFs will not provide the best protection.
- Remember to re-apply – This is particularly important when swimming outside. Sunscreens lose their effectiveness following swimming so will need re-applying.
- Cover up – Wear a hat and cover up your arms and legs. Try and avoid being in direct sunlight for long periods in between 11am-3pm when the UV light from the Sun is the strongest. Don’t fully rely on the shade, if you are outside at all your skin will be affected by UV rays.
Why have mole checks/skin screening?
It’s really important for learning what to look for and when trying to identify changes that could possibly indicate the development of skin cancer.
It can also be helpful to set your mind at ease as some lesions may look suspicious but are actually completely normal. We will advise on potential issues or concerns. We will help you recognise the warning signs specific to your skin type and family history.
Here’s a helpful guide for helping decide whether a skin lesion may be suspicious:
A IS FOR ASYMMETRY
Are both halves of the mole the same size & shape? A melanoma is often asymmetrical.
B IS FOR BORDER
Is the border of the mole regular? Melanomas tend to have an uneven or crusty border.
C IS FOR COLOUR
Is the mole uniform in colour? A melanoma will often contain a variety of colours.
D IS FOR DIAMETER
What size is the mole? A melanoma is often larger than a pencil eraser, but can be smaller.
E IS FOR EVOLVING
Has the mole changed? Get a mole checked if it has changed shape, colour, has become itchy, bleeds or has a scab.
How often should I have mole checks/skin screening?
Depending on the degree of concern we recommend six-monthly to annual checks. Things can change quickly with the skin so checks should be arranged any time there is a concern.
What is involved with a mole check/skin screening?
We check your lumps, bumps, lesions, moles. We look at everything on your skin and use a dermatoscope to closely analyse any lesions you may be worried about, or which we think could be of concern.
What happens if you find a concerning lesion?
In the rare occasion that we diagnose a lesion as suspicious, we will advise the next course of action, which can include private treatment at the Skin Surgery Clinic or referral back to your GP.
If you have your own questions for Dr Smith about skin health during the summer months, post them in the comments below.