Feeling pale and pasty? Feel like a quick visit to the tanning salon to use the sun bed? Think again….

Recent research published in the British Medical Journal has shown evidence that the increase in use of artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation such as indoor tanning devices like sun beds is associated with an increase in riskĀ  of the 3 main skin cancers including malignant melanoma, an aggressive form. This risk is increased if the first exposure to artificial UV radiation is before the age of 35 yrs.

The authors of the study estimated that 3438 cases of malignant melanoma could be prevented each year in Western Europe by avoiding exposure to indoor tanning. The World Health Organisation has now classified tanning beds as a group 1 carcinogen alongside tobacco smoking and asbestos.

Still feeling pale and pasty? Feel like planning a holiday somewhere hot and sunny? Think again…..

It has long been recognised that excessive exposure of the skin to the direct UVA and UVB rays of direct sunlight increases the risk of developing skin cancers of all types. Episodes of sunburn greatly increase this risk as skin cells that are damaged are at greater risk of becoming abnormal and cancerous.

Take measures to be ‘sun safe’

Avoid the sun when the sun is strongest in the middle of the day.

Cover up when you are out in direct sunshine for a prolonged time.

Use high factor sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection and reapply it regularly.

Still feeling pale and pasty? There is an answer……

Opt for a spray tan and take a walk, quite literally, on the sunny side of the street. Exposure to a moderate amount of direct sunlight is actually beneficial.

Vitamin D is vital for good health, growth and strong bones and is made in the skin with the help of sunlight. We also get a small amount from the foods we eat (oily fish, egg yolk and fortified foods eg. some breakfast cereals).

To prevent deficiency of Vitamin D it is estimated that we need 2 to 3 sun exposures per week in the summer months (April to September), lasting 20-30 mins, to bare arms and face. This needs to be in direct sunlight and not through a window. This is not the same as suntanning and sunburn should be avoided at all costs.

How can we help?

If you have any new or changing skin lesions, and particularly if you have been a heavy user of indoor tanning and sun beds, or have a history of multiple episodes of sunburn, the doctors at the Students’ Health Service

would be very keen to take a look at them. The earlier any skin cancer is caught, the better the outcome of treatment.

Further information:

Sunsmart- www.cancerresearchuk.org/sunsmart

Sun Awareness Fact sheet- www.bad.org.uk/site/734/default.aspx

Sun and Health- www.patient.co.uk/health/sun-and-health

Reference:

BMJ 6 October 2012 Volume 345.

Editorial p7, Research p14/15, Personal View p31