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Stay safe in the sun when on holiday at home or abroad

August 3rd 2011

Dr Jurgita Cekanaviciene gives advice on sun safety.

Whether you spend your summer break relaxing on a beach abroad or playing with the kids in the garden here in the UK, it’s important to remember to take precautionary measures against sun damage.

Many of us already know that ultra violet (UV) light can cause sunburn when skin is exposed to the sun. However, it’s easy to forget to protect skin when enjoying the rare British sunshine! Don’t wait until you or your children begin to feel red and sore before thinking about applying cream or moving to a shadier spot. The most important thing to remember about staying safe this summer is to think ahead and apply sun cream before exposing skin to the sun.

UV light can also cause more damage than sunburn. Itchy and red skin, known commonly as prickly heat, can also be caused by sun exposure and is very uncomfortable. Longer term skin damage can also be a result of UV exposure. In addition, skin can be prematurely aged and become wrinkled. Scaly spots (solar keratoses) can also form as a result of sun exposure.

Excess exposure to sunlight can also cause more serious effects, including a variety of skin cancers, of which the most serious is a melanoma. Research from Cancer Research UK has revealed a strong link between sunburn and melanoma. People who develop skin cancer are twice as likely have been badly sunburned at least once in their lives. What’s more, sunburn in childhood is even more damaging than sunburn as an adult, making it particularly important to make sure children are protected from the sun. Worryingly, statistics from the NHS state that in the UK, 2,000 people a year die of skin cancer, and the number is increasing.

Whilst it’s great to be able to escape the unpredictable, and often dreary, British weather, the short period of exposure to very intense sunshine when on holiday abroad can be very damaging to skin, especially for those who are desperate to come home with a tan. Cancer Research UK warns that concentrated sun exposure can actually be more harmful then spending a short amount of time every day in the sun. This type of sun exposure can increase the risk of developing skin cancer, so it’s really important to protect skin and avoid sun burn whilst on holiday.

Follow these tips to avoid sunburn and to keep your whole family comfortable and safe in the sun.

• Avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day: between 12pm and 3pm.

• Wear sunglasses which protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays.

• Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to their skin. For sunscreen to be effective, it is very important that you apply a generous amount to your skin before going out in the sun. Reapply it regularly (at least every two to three hours) and after going in the water.

• Be prepared! Always put a bottle of sun cream and your sunglasses in your bag if you are going for a day out or an afternoon in the park. Even if the weather seems cloudy, UV rays can still cause harm to your skin if you haven’t applied sun cream or spend too long outside.

• Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.

• Check any moles you have for changes in colour, size or texture and contact the healthcare centre if you notice any differences.

For more information on staying safe in the sun, visit the NHS summer health pages at


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