Why do people sunbathe?
To look more attractive, that's why. According to a recent survey of
attitudes to suntans conducted by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, vanity plays a lethal
part, as does fashion. A majority of the population think that a light suntan gives us a
healthy look and the celeb scene is still littered with bronzed, lean bodies.
Who chooses to tan and when?
Weekend bingeing in the sun is favoured by more than one in five adults who
use low factor sun screen or none at all. This often takes place just before a holiday
with the mistaken idea that a sun tan protects from the sun, a concept presumably based on
the out-dated notion that once brown you don't burn. Around 47% of holidaymakers will go
to a hot climate in order to achieve a tan. Three
quarters of us like to have a tan at some time during the year, and nearly a quarter go
for the year round brown look.
'A suntan shows that the skin is
being damaged by too much sunlight and is trying to protect itself. says Dr
Charlotte Proby, Consultant Dermatologist at Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
age-group goes for the bronze?
You may think this is a preoccupation of the young, but the statistics
show otherwise: though 58% of 15-34 year olds sunbathe, as many as 51% aged 55 and over
also do so. A depressing score for those of us who thought that wisdom grew with age.
The experience of severe sunburn, a skin cancer scare or knowing someone with
skin cancer does put people off. Nevertheless, there are still those for whom a need for
the bronzed and beautiful look overrides the worry of turning into an early wrinkly or
risking an early demise.
are the harmful effects of sunbathing?
Skin cancer is the commonest form of cancer in the UK and ultraviolet
radiation from the sun the biggest risk factor. While
UVB rays cause sunburn, it is the UVA rays that penetrate the skin and cause
irreversible damage. There are two types of skin cancer.
The non-melanoma type can usually be treated successfully. Melanoma skin cancer is
less common but more serious and potentially fatal. In both cases the number of new cases
diagnosed each year is increasing.
Sun damage has a slow cumulative effect, and apart from the changing
appearance of moles is invisible. While non-melanoma takes longer to develop, around 40
years, melanoma starts to kick in during early adulthood and peaks in the 30s-40s age
are the best ways to protect ourselves?
When we go out into the sun, we need our hat, beach umbrella, thin but
opaque cover up clothes, sunglasses with UV protection and of course a jumbo bottle of sun
screen of at least SPF 15 and a 4-star UVA rating.
Check on the bottle when you buy. An
alarm clock set to go off at two-hourly intervals will act as a reminder to re-apply
generous amounts of sun screen, if you are on the beach.
Apply even more often if you are in and out of the water.
Do sunscreens have a shelf life?
Quite a long shelf one says Dr Proby. She reckons they last around three
years. But if contents are watery and lumpy
when squeezed, chuck it.
When are the safest times to
sunbathe (if you must)?
Early-ish in the morning before
the sun is at full blast is safest. Begin a
long leisurely lunch around eleven followed by a siesta and then you can go back on the
beach for afternoon tea at three. Don't be
misled by clouds on a bright day. The damaging rays can still get through.
How to check your moles
Moles are common and change is normally slow, so rapidity of change is
the chief indicator of risk. Any change in shape, size or colour noted over a period of
about six weeks should be reported to your doctor.
tanned skin is damaged skin, so why not join the 17% who say they wouldnt tan if
natural skin colour became fashionable. However, if you are addicted to looking tanned,
choose from the new self-tan products for face and body widely available. They are easy to apply and look the part.
for new sun protection from Vichy
Vichy Laboratories, in
partnership with the British Skin Foundation and Imperial Cancer Research, have launched a
campaign for sun protection. Vichy produce a
range of hypoallergenic skin products and their newest is Sunblock Spray SPF30- UVA16, £9.95 per 150 ml, available
from chemists countrywide, which they claim will give deep down skin-penetrating
Vichy are also offering a free suncare diagnosis which can assess the skin's
natural levels of protection and point to the most suitable level of screening needed.
A team of dermatological nurses and pharmacists will be touring selected
Boots stores and individual pharmacies during June 2001.
To view previous
articles in this series - see the laterlife-interest