Take cover

Have fun in the sun, but between 11 and 3 hide under a tree… and be sure to protect delicate skin whatever time of day this summer!

Long sleeves please! That is the message from top dermatologists this summer as latest research reveals that the number of people with skin cancer continues to rise. “High factor sun creams are all well and good but there are times when you really need to cover up – and that means putting a layer of clothing between you and the sunshine,” said Dr Joanna Gach, consultant dermatologist at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull.

“It is advice we always give to parents to protect their children but, at times, adults should also be doing the same thing. Everyone thinks they look ‘healthier’ with a tan but looks can be deceiving.” Even good sun cream loses its protection power after a while, whereas a light, long-sleeved T-shirt and pair of cotton trousers will keep you cool and safe all day long, Dr Gach added.


Government figures show that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and rising. There are more than 200,000 cases a year with malignant melanoma – one of the most dangerous forms – resulting in over 2,500 deaths annually.

Dr Gach’s colleague and specialist in skin cancer treatment Dr Irshad Zaki, said: “People tend to reach for the sun cream when there are clear blue skies but there is almost as much danger when there is cloud cover. Clouds reduce the amount of ultraviolet A and B radiation that reaches the earth’s surface and our skin, but it doesn’t stop the damaging rays. In the case of young children, if it is warm enough for them to be playing out in shorts and T-shirts then the sun is usually strong enough to merit covering them in a protective cream or lotion.”

At this time of year chemist and supermarket shelves are full of sun creams and lotions – so, which one should you buy? Does cut-price mean it won’t be effective? Are you simply paying for the brand name when you fork out for the expensive stuff?


“When choosing a sunscreen, make sure you check the UVA start rating as well as the SPF sun protection factor on the label,” said Dr Zaki. The SPF is on a scale of 6 to 50+ with SPF 6 to 14 providing the least amount of protection against burning and skin cancer, and 50+ having the strongest protection from UVB. The UVA star rating ranges from 0 to 5.

“The British Association of Dermatologists recommends using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and a UVA star rating of 4 to 5 as a good level of protection,” said Dr Zaki. “If you are going to swim in the sun, it is also important that the sunscreen you use is labelled as water-resistant. You will still need to reapply it after bathing to ensure you have adequate protection throughout the day.

So, remember, check the label before you buy – and always go for protection value and not the price!


1 Choose long-sleeved clothes made of closely woven material, such as cotton, to keep children cool.

2 Make them wear a hat, preferably with a broad brim.

3 Always use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

4 Plaster it on and keep topping it up.

5 Reapply to all sun-exposed areas of skin every two or three hours, more frequently if swimming or playing in water.

6 Choose a sunscreen specifically formulated for a child’s more delicate skin.

7. Long trunks and long-sleeved swimsuits give more protection in the water.

8. Protect eyes with sunglasses with certified UV protection.

9. Avoid the sun when it is at its strongest. As they say in Australia: “Between 11 and three, hide under a tree!”

10. Get kids to play in shaded areas or have a little midday nap – a siesta during the hottest hours.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional. Dr Irshad Zaki and Dr Joanna Gach are consultant dermatologists at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull, tel 0121 704 5530 www.spireparkway.com