National Sun Awareness Week

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  Posted by: Dental Design      4th May 2023

National Sun Awareness Week runs from 3rd – 9th May 2023. It is a campaign led by The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) and its aim is to highlight the danger of excessive sun exposure. The campaign is overseen by the BAD’s Skin Cancer Prevention Committee, which is comprised of leading medical professionals in the fields of skin cancer, vitamin D and public health messaging.

I’m sure we’re all aware that ultraviolet rays are the main cause of skin cancer, but UV light from sunbeds is just as dangerous, and for this reason the campaign is focused on discouraging their use, indeed, the BAD has been involved in campaigning for legislation to regulate the sun bed industry and is continuing to push towards further and improved regulation.

Ultimately, National Sun Awareness Week offers professional guidance on how we can all enjoy the sun safely because each year, people still fail to take the necessary precautions. Evidence suggests that there is a lot of confusion surrounding what exactly constitutes “exposure to the sun.” For example, many people are unaware that a crisp sunny day in winter can be just as dangerous as a balmy summer’s day.

Thus, National Sun Awareness Week serves to expel all the myths around sun exposure and provide all the facts, evidence, and tips we all need to know e.g., many people believe that:

  1. Those with darker skin do not need to wear sun cream
  2. Sunbathing is fine as long as you do not burn
  3. You are only likely to burn on a hot summer day
  4. You cannot burn through glass
  5. Sunbeds are safer than sun exposure

But these are myths, and we need to dispel them!

Most people have been affected by sun damage to the skin at some time. In 2022, 35% of people in the UK were burnt at least once, and of those 28% were burnt more than three times during the year-worrying statistics.

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, there are at least 172,000 new diagnoses each year and sadly it is responsible for 3,200 deaths. It occurs as a result of mutations in skin cell DNA from exposure to UV light and other carcinogens. Occasionally it can also occur from a genetic predisposition, where mutated skin cells rapidly divide and grow into tumours. There are two main types: melanoma and non-melanoma. Whilst the former is less common, it is also more deadly, but the good news is that most cases (86%) are preventable. This is why it is so important that as health professionals we are clued up on the risk factors. So, just what should we be advising our patients? Well here goes:

  1. The majority of sun damage occurs in childhood, and then manifests as skin cancer in adulthood. Therefore, it is vital to protect children from the harmful effects of sunlight. Slather them in SPF 50 or better still invest in UV protective clothing that they can wear outdoors
  2. The saying goes that only ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ -wise words indeed because its best to stay in the shade from 11am to 3pm when UV rays are strongest
  3. It is easy to apply suncream once you are in the sun but ideally you need to apply it at least half an hour before and reapply regularly especially if involved in outdoor sweaty activities
  4. Wear a hat-a lot of skin cancer occurs on the scalp and face which is why as dental professionals we often notice abnormalities
  1. Always wear sunglasses
  1. Whilst it is true that those with lighter skin are more prone to developing skin cancer, all skin types are susceptible. So, whatever the skin type, sunscreen (including SPF lip balm) should always be worn and burning should be avoided at all costs

Finally, if in doubt, get it checked out-as health professionals this should be our mantra-if you are at all suspicious of any irregularity refer to a specialist for further investigation.

So, to summarise, it is quite easy for us all to be safe when outside, simply remember to wear sunscreen, protective gear and stay in the shade when the sun is at its highest. This will help to save skin from harmful and painful damage caused by the sun which is essential as over-exposure to the sun’s rays can do serious damage.

About the Author

Ali Lowe is an award-winning dental hygienist based in Cardiff and has worked in both private & NHS practice as well as the Orthodontic department of Cardiff Dental School. Her interest in helping patients both before and after cancer diagnosis began following enrolment on Victoria Wilsons Smile Revolution course and the development of Fit Lip UK – a campaign aimed at encouraging people to wear SPF lip balm in order to protect their lips, prevent lip cancer & keep their mouth healthy. Ali volunteers for the Mouth Cancer Foundation, has had several articles published in both the dental and public press, is actively involved in the BSDHT and is on the publications committee of Dental Health (the hygienist & therapist journal). Ali is fervent about raising awareness of mouth cancer (in particular lip cancer), its side effects and the importance of continuing care.


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