Sun Awareness Week 2018 – Protecting against skin cancer & harmful UV exposure

The British Association of Dermatologists’ Sun Awareness week is running from May 14th to May 20th. The aim of the week is to teach people about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning, and to discourage people from using sunbeds, as well as encouraging people to regularly self-examine for skin cancer (click here for more details about Sun Awareness Week).

Each year in the UK, there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast and lung cancers combined. Thankfully, the majority of skin cancers are treatable, but the most deadly form, malignant melanoma, kills over 2,000 people in the UK each year, with all skin cancers killing a total of more than 2,500 people annually (click here for a factsheet by Skin Cancer UK). Malignant melanoma is the second most common cancer in 15-34-year-olds, and at least two young people in Britain receive this diagnosis every day (Cancer Research UK, 2011). The World Health Organization (WHO, 2012) suggests that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, including exposure to the sun and sunbeds, are the primary causes of all melanomas, leading to skin cancer.

Here at Staffordshire University, Dr Alison Owen carries out research encouraging people to take care of their skin, and protect it from the sun and sunbeds. Dr Owen, alongside colleagues Prof Sarah Grogan (Manchester Metropolitan University), Prof David Clark-Carter and Dr Emily Buckley, have carried out a number of pieces of research looking at the impact of APRIL facial ageing software, which can show people the damage that exposing their skin to the sun without sun protection, or using sunbeds, can do to their skin. The researchers found a number of very positive findings, in particular when comparing the appearance-focussed intervention to more traditional health-focussed literature (i.e. leaflets), there was a much bigger impact on people’s opinions after viewing the damage to their skin.

The World Health Organization recommends a number of steps to protect your skin from the sun and UV exposure, including:

  • Limit time in the midday sun
    The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. To the extent possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.
  • Wear protective clothing
    A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, and the back or your neck. Sunglasses can greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.
  • Use sunscreen
    Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ liberally and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.
  • Avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours
    Sunbeds damage the skin and unprotected eyes and are best avoided entirely.

Dr Owen will be at the This Morning Live shopping and lifestyle show (running from the 17th to the 20th May, NEC Birmingham) demonstrating the APRIL software, working alongside the award winning sun protection brand Tancream.

Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

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