Sun Safety and Skin Cancers by Dr Neil Poskitt

If it finally stops raining we will start spending more time out doors. However the sun damages our skin and we need to be wise about our exposure. The sun sends out different types of radiation:

* sunlight (that you can see and feel as heat).

* infrared radiation (that you can feel as heat).

* UV radiation (that you cannot see or feel). It is UV radiation that damages the skin causing ageing and most skin cancers.

 
You need to be careful when it’s cool (and/or cloudy) outside from September to April. When it’s cool it means there’s less infrared radiation but not necessarily less UV radiation. You can still get sunburnt on cool/cloudy days. Sunscreens do not fully block out UV radiation. The best sun protective measures are to:

* Wear closely-woven covering clothing. Choose long sleeves, long trousers, or a long skirt.

* Look out for clothing with a label stating its UPF (protection factor) is greater than 40. Tests have shown sun clothing blocks ultraviolet radiation very
effectively (much better than sunscreens).     However, normal fabrics are also protective.

* Put on a broad-brimmed hat.

* Try to keep in the shade or carry an umbrella.

* Apply a sunscreen to all uncovered skin before you go out.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting New Zealanders. Each year more New Zealanders die from melanoma skin cancers than on our roads.

 

Warning signs for cancers:

Any skin spot that changes in colour, size or thickness, texture or outline or is larger than 6mm could be a skin cancer. A spot that itches or hurts, crusts or scabs, ulcerates or bleeds or fails to heal within 3 weeks could be a cancer.

 

If you notice one of these signs then get your skin checked by a Doctor.

Useful sites: everybody.co.nz “Sun Safety”, sunsmart.org.nz, dermnet.org.nz