Staying safe in the sun

21st May 2013


As summer grows nearer, it’s important to properly consider the risks that the stronger sun poses to our health.

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) manage the Sun Awareness Campaign to highlight the risks of sun exposure and its link to serious conditions such as skin cancer. Here, Consultant Dermatologist Bav Shergill provides an overview of the campaign and looks at some of the common misconceptions around skin care, as well as the role that plastic surgeons occupy in providing treatment.

The Sun Awareness Campaign is run by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) to raise awareness of the prevention and early detection of skin cancer.  One of the activities that BAD undertakes as part of the campaign is the Mole and Sun Advice Roadshow.  In 2012, the roadshow visited six events, and 1,350 people were given personalised sun and mole check advice by our dermatologists, and also completed a survey questionnaire about skin cancer and sun safety.

There were a number of startling findings – including that only 50 per cent of people correctly identified their own skin colour, with 48 per cent thinking their skin was darker than the dermatologist’s assessment.

There was also a high level of confusion about what to look for in a sunscreen and the difference between a product’s UVA rating and Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Only 38 per cent of respondents knew that the SPF is what predominantly protects against sunburn, and only 39 per cent realised that it is a product’s UVA protection, rather than SPF, that prevents against skin ageing. A recent rise in moisturisers featuring SPF is believed to have led to this misconception, as people assume the added SPF properties will prevent wrinkling, when in fact it is UVA protection - often not included in these moisturisers - that performs this function.

It’s therefore unlikely then that the number of people with sun damaged skin looking for a cosmetic solution is going to diminish.  Many patients seek cosmetic advice for ageing caused by chronic sun exposure and it is important that they are seen by someone with relevant medical training. Although they may have arrived in the clinic for the cosmetic removal of moles or 'blemishes', these may turn out to be skin cancer and a skin care expert such as a dermatologist or plastic surgeon can provide a comprehensive assessment of skin lumps and bumps (to make sure they are benign) and information on how to maintain healthy skin.

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