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5 Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer When Travelling In The Sun

How long have you been waiting for the sun to warm your day? It’s been chilly this spring. Last spring UK temperatures were below average and March was the wettest in over 40 years. This March it was wet again and dull. So, when a warm day comes for us to soak up the sunshine, we’ll need to be ready.

Although the sun can enhance our moods it also has the potential to damage our skin. Therefore, we need to take precautions before being out in hot weather, whether we’re holidaying in hot and sunny destinations or visiting a new location within the UK.

Figures from Cancer Research UK reveal that melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK, with 100,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the UK every year. Plus, the chance of getting melanoma skin cancer in the UK is 1 in 36 for males and 1 in 47 for females.

Yet, it’s not all bad news – almost 90% of people diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer now survive the condition for 10 years or more. Even more encouragingly, 86% of cases are preventable, which reinforces just how vital effective awareness and preventative measures are.

travelling in the sun

5 Sun safety tips to ensure your skin’s protected on holiday

1: Use a  high factor sun cream

The benefits of sun cream are well-known, but the fact that skin cancer has steadily risen in recent years suggests that we’re still not using it as much as we should.

Getting sunburned just once every two years is enough to triple your risk of developing malignant melanoma skin cancer, so sun cream is a vital form of protection.

There is a huge range of sun creams on the market today, with many different factors and levels of protection, but the British Skin Foundation recommends using one with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 every day.

It’s also important to know your UVA from your UVB. Both types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight can cause skin cancer, but UVA rays are more often linked with skin aging. UVB rays are the ones that cause skin burning and cellular damage and are linked to most incidences of skin cancer.

Look for a waterproof sun cream that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, ideally with a five-star rating. Aim to apply two tablespoons of sun cream to your whole body for about half an hour before heading out into the sun and reapply it every couple of hours and after swimming. Don’t assume that a cloudy day on holiday means that you can skip the sun cream though; UV levels can still be high.

high factor sun cream to reduce skin

2:Avoid sun exposure during the hottest part of the day

You’re most likely to burn when the sun is at its strongest, which is between 11 am and 3 pm. Try to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun during these hours; find some shade or cover up with loose clothing. It’s possible to burn in strong sunlight in just 10 minutes, especially if you are very fair-skinned.

It may sound extreme, but don’t forget about the risk of sitting by windows too – UV rays can get through many standard glass windows, so it’s still possible to burn.

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couple in the sun

3: Wear suitable clothing & sunglasses

Clothing offers the best defense for your skin when outside in the sun, in addition to suitable sunscreen. Don’t forget to wear a hat to protect your scalp and hairline, which can be tricky areas to apply sun cream to. The tips of your ears are especially sensitive to the sun and can take a long time to heal from burning, so consider opting for a wide-brimmed hat. Protect the delicate skin around your eyes with sunglasses, making sure they guard against 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays.

wear sun glasses to avoid skin cancer

4: Understand the risks of skin cancer

It’s possible for anyone to develop skin cancer, but as cellular damage can accumulate over time, the main risk factor for skin cancer is older age. Other risk factors include:

  • Having more than 20 moles on your body.
  • Being fair-skinned and/or fair-haired.
  • Having a close family member who has had skin cancer.
  • Having been badly sunburned in the past.

You also have a higher risk of developing another melanoma when you’ve already had one.

In addition to understanding what your risk of developing skin cancer is likely to be, it’s important to be aware of other factors that can make you more susceptible.

For example, some medications can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and increase your risk of burning. Some antibiotics, allergy medicines, and certain medications for depression can all affect how your body reacts to heat, from increasing the amount of fluid you lose through urine to preventing you from sweating.

Read through the information that comes with your medication, or talk to your doctor if you’re unsure whether you may be at increased risk of getting skin cancer.

medication and skin cancer

5: Check your skin regularly

Keeping an eye on your skin is especially important if you have already had an instance of skin cancer, but it’s a good habit for all of us to take up. Every month, take time to examine your skin from head to toe, paying special attention to moles and any changes to them, such as an increase in size, a change in colour, or a previously flat mole becoming raised. You should see a doctor without delay if you notice a mole bleeding, itching, or becoming scaly.

Melanoma UK recommends checking for changes to the ABCDE Rule – Asymmetry, Border, Colour, Diameter, and Elevation or Enlargement.

looking for skin cancer

Download our infographic to refer to these sun safety tips again.

Don’t head off into the sun without specialist travel insurance

Of course, no sunshine break is complete without travel insurance. With Free Spirit, having an existing health condition or disability needn’t be a barrier to getting cover. We specialise in providing travel insurance that covers a wide range of pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities to people of any age.

Simply contact us to find out more about our medical travel insurance, or apply for a quote online.


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