Updated 26 May 2015

Preventing skin cancer

There's no getting away from it. You need to cover up when you go outside, even when it's cloudy. Here's what else you should know about preventing skin cancer.

There's no getting away from it. You need to cover up when you go outside, even when it's cloudy. Here's what else you should know about preventing skin cancer:

- The sun has two types of rays - those you can see and ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can cause skin cancer. These are the rays you need to avoid now in order to reduce your chances of getting skin cancer at a later stage in your life.

- Stay out of the sun and this will solve the problem. But doing this is not so simple. Everyone has to go outdoors on a regular basis. Remember that the UV rays are much stronger in the summer, close to the equator or in high-lying areas. 

- Plan outdoor activities for before 10h00 and after 16h00 when the UV rays are much weaker.

- Remember that UV rays can burn you right through the fabric of beach umbrellas and that they can reflect off water, sand and cement.

- Think when you dress. You might look great in that short-sleeved top, but keep it for when you go out in the evening. Wear long sleeves and cover as much of your body as possible. Remember that thin white cotton and wet clothing give no protection at all against UV-rays.

- Wear a hat. A proper hat with a wide brim. A peak cap, even though it is better than nothing, either protects your face, or your neck - not both. And necks can be so sore when they've been sunburnt. Almost as sore as burnt feet.

- Wear a pair of sunglasses. Not one of those cheap plastic numbers you buy on street corners, but one from a reputable manufacturer, that blocks out UV rays. Ask your pharmacist for more information about this.

- Apply lots of sunblock regularly. Put it on about 20 minutes before you go out into the sun, and even when it is overcast. Use one that is water-resistant, otherwise it will wash off when you go for a swim. Reapply the sunblock at least every hour and a half. Anything with a sun protection factor (SPF) of under 30 is basically a waste of money. The SPF indicates how much longer you can stay in the sun than when you have used no sunblock at all. SPF 30 - 45 blocks out more than 96% of the sun's ultraviolet rays. When you buy sunblock, check that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

- Stay away from sun lamps and sun beds - they often emit more UV rays than normal sunlight.

Read more:

Diagnosing skin cancer

Symptoms of skin cancer

Risk factors for skin cancer


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