5 Sun safety strategies
South Africa enjoys glorious summer weather, but our long days of sunshine come at a cost – according to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), we also have “one of the highest monitored ultra violet (UV) levels in the world, resulting in one of the highest skin cancer rates globally.” Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure that you and your family are protected from harmful UV rays. Here’s a look at how to stay safe in the sun this summer.
1. Slather on the sunscreen
Get into the habit of putting on a good quality sunscreen before you go outside – CANSA recommends wearing an SPF of 20 to 50, but if you’re fair or very fair-skinned, they suggest an SPF of 30 to 50. If you have opened bottles of sunscreen in your cupboard that you suspect are a year or more old, rather bin them and buy a new bottle for the season. And remember to reapply sunscreen during the day, particularly if you’ve worked up a sweat or taken a dip in the pool.
2. Wear sunglasses and a hat
Sunnies are the perfect accessory to any summer outfit, but their main job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, so make sure yours have a protection rating of UV400. Also opt for a wide-brimmed hat when you spend time outside, to protect your face, neck and ears.
3. Stay in the shade
Ideally, you should avoid being in the sun between the peak hours of 10am and 3pm. And when you do head outdoors, try to stay out of direct sunlight and instead search for a shady spot to put your towel or picnic blanket. Remember to take a long-sleeve top with you to protect your arms and shoulders if necessary.
4. Check your medication
Did you know that certain medications can make you more sensitive to sun exposure? These include some antibiotics, diabetes medications, oral contraceptives and pain killers. So, if you’re taking any medications, you may want to check with your pharmacist to see whether they can cause photosensitivity and, if so, what additional precautions you should take.
5. Do a regular mole check
CANSA recommends that you check your moles monthly (you’ll need a family member to help you) and that you see your GP or dermatologist right away if you spot any of the skin cancer warning signs:
Asymmetry – a mark with one half unlike the other (not symmetrical). Common moles are round and symmetrical.
Border irregularities – scalloped/poorly defined edges. Common moles are smooth and have even borders.
Colour changes – tan, black, brown, red, white, blue. Common moles are usually a single shade of brown or black.
Diameter – larger than 6mm.
Evolve – grows bigger and becomes more prominent.
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