Take it steady, my sun!

Every summer there are warnings about the dangers of soaking up too much sun… but is anyone listening? Here’s our simple guide to making your holidays fun – and safe

We all like a drop of sun. It makes us feel better, brighter and generally chilled. But the dangers of too much sun should be well-known to all of us by now – yet it’s surprising how many people ignore the risks and choose to roast on the beach or in the garden. Best case scenario they end up with prematurely ageing skin that’s the texture of a jacket potato. Worst case they can get skin cancer – the most common cancer in the UK, despite our questionable climate. As we start to enter the holiday season and look forward to sunshine breaks at home (maybe!!) and abroad, we’ve pulled together top tips from leading health experts on how to stay safe when the temperatures soar. They also expose some of the ‘myths’ about going out in the sun.


  1. Always apply sunscreen: Sounds obvious. Use it liberally and at regular intervals, making sure to cover all areas of exposed skin, including the back of the neck, top of the ears and the scalp. Get help from someone else for the hard-to-reach areas like your back and shoulders. A sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) and UVA rating will help prevent skin damage.
  2. Wear more clothes: This may seem like an odd piece of advice, but wearing a hat, sunglasses, and putting on a t-shirt or kaftan to cover your shoulders and chest on the beach will give you more protection than relying on sunscreen alone.
  3. Sit in the shade: Where possible enjoy the sun in the shade rather than sitting or walking directly in it. Take a large parasol to the beach and sit underneath it, especially at times when the sun is highest in the sky between 11am and 3pm.
  4. Home & Away: Remember, the sun does come out in the UK as well, so take sunscreen to work with you and apply before sitting outside on your lunch break.
  5. Monitor moles: If you have any moles then make sure to keep a watch on them and report any changes in colour, size, shape, or if they become raised off the skin or sensitive to touch, to your GP. “The earlier a skin cancer is found the better the chance that it can be treated with success,” said dermatologist Dr Manjit Kaur of Spire Little Aston Hospital. “You don’t need scans or blood tests to find a skin cancer early – you just need your eyes and a mirror. Examining the skin for new or changing moles and skin lesions is essential – if you are concerned about anything get it checked by your doctor even if it has not caused any symptoms.”


  1. If I’m in the shade I don’t need to use any sunscreen: The UV rays from the sun are reflected from sand and sea and any other bright surfaces onto your skin, whether you’re in the shade or not.
  2. Water resistant sunscreens will protect me while I’m in the sea or pool: These types of products do give some limited protection but you will lose that the longer you are in the water and when you towel yourself off.
  3. Sunscreens with a high SPF prevent damage from the sun’s rays: The higher the SPF number the more protection there is from burning caused by UVB radiation. While sunburn is mainly caused by UVB, research now shows that UVA rays may be just as important in causing premature skin ageing and skin cancer.
  4. My skin never burns, so I won’t get any long term damage: Even if prolonged exposure to the sun doesn’t show any visible signs, the more time you are exposed to UV rays, the greater the risk. Research shows that unprotected sun exposure in the first 15 years of a child’s life significantly raises the risk of skin cancer in later life.
  5. Using a fake tan gives my skin a golden glow which also protects it: There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a bronzed look from a bottle, but most self-tanners offer no protection against harmful UV.


Whether you are devoted to sunbeds or use them for the occasional one-off session before your holiday, using one will increase your risk of skin cancer by more than you might realise. There is a common misconception about sunbeds in the UK. Many people think they offer a controlled way to get a safe, healthy tan when used in moderation – but actually you are damaging your skin every time you strip off and put on those goggles. According to some research sunbed users have a 20 per cent increased risk of melanoma. So the message is simple – enjoy the summer and the sunshine sensibly…

Dr Manjit Kaur is consultant dermatologist at Spire Little Aston Hospital tel 0121 580 7119 www.spirelittleaston.com Spire Little Aston Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, B74 3UP