When we are born, we could metaphorically say that we have a meter on our skin which reads: 0.00. Every time we are exposed to the sun, this meter ticks over and we get accumulative sun damage to our skin. Our skin has a memory like an elephant : it never forgets an episode of abuse such as a sunburn or blistering and will come back to haunt you from about your forties onwards …
- Try and stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day from about 11:00 to 16:00. If you are going to swim, play tennis, play golf or go hiking, try and do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Sun exposure not only causes skin cancer but it can also cause photo-ageing such as wrinkles, brown sunspots, broken veins and a breakdown of collagen.
- Always apply a sunscreen daily and reapply it if you are outdoors for any length of time, as one application does not last a whole day.
- Use a good quality sunscreen – we often suggest sunscreens from Europe as the large companies there spend a lot of money on research and development of sunscreens.
- Always use a sunscreen with a SPF protection that is commensurate with your outdoor activity.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat with UV protection found in the Emthunzini range, available from our Bright Street practice. Hats with a brim are far better than peaks which can burn your ears!
- Wear proper clothing i.e. a long sleeved shirt if you are rowing/canoeing or after a swim, put on a t-shirt or a sarong and lie under the shade of an umbrella.
- A little sun exposure every day helps the body to produce Vitamin D for our bones and it is good for our immune systems. However, most people receive their required dosage by just going about their daily activities in South Africa.
Fair-skinned, red /fair-haired people with a tendency to freckle should be particularly respectful of the sun but in general, people of all skin types should practice good sun sense. Generally white-skinned people are designed to live in the northern hemisphere in places such as Europe i.e. colder climates where the sun is kinder and gentler than in Africa.
Skin cancer is rising worldwide and one in every fifty white South Africans will develop a malignant melanoma in their lifetime and it can occur in any age group although rare – the youngest person that has been diagnosed with one in our practice was fourteen years old at the time.
Melanoma is a mole which becomes cancerous and can be related to short, intensive bursts of sun exposure. A malignant melanoma can be deadly but there is still quite a misconception out there that skin cancer cannot kill you: this is not the case, especially if it is not diagnosed in the early stages.
A professor at Glasgow University in Scotland undertook some rather interesting studies. These showed that a fair person who sits indoors at her workplace for eleven months of the year, in a cold climate such as in Scotland and then goes to Majorca for one month, has a higher risk of getting a melanoma from the short but intensive exposure to the sun – she usually lies in the sun long enough to burn and cause blistering of her delicate, fair skin as she makes the most of her time in the sun before returning to her dismal, cold climate in Scotland!
The safest tan remains a tan that comes out of a bottle!