Tips for staying safe in the sun this summer
Knowing how to protect your skin against the sun is crucial. Each year, around 1,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Although rates of the disease are increasing generally, they rise even further with age, according to Dr Marie Laffoy of the National Cancer Programme.
The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma in Ireland are over the age of 50 and the average age of diagnosis is around 63. Sixty per cent of cases are in women.
This, after all, is the age-group that not only invented the sun holiday but whose members also, in their younger days, routinely roasted their bodies in the hot sun with nothing but a brush of baby oil for protection.
Skin cancer, in fact, is the most common cancer in Ireland. And it is on the increase, with the National Cancer Registry expecting figures to double.
Dr Patrick Ormond, consultant dermatologist at St James's Hospital in Dublin, said both melanoma and non-melanoma rates had increased year on year and that skin cancers were much more prevalent in the over-50s.
"If you're over 50, it's never too late to protect your skin. It's not just about sun block but about all the other methods; wearing a wide-brimmed hat, seeking the shade, wearing loose clothing," he said.
Dr Ormond said that it was also important for anyone over 50 to check their skin regularly and consult their doctor if they notice anything unusual.
The general advice is:
- Apply high-factor sunscreen early on and regularly. It is important to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun. As a general rule, the experts say, the amount of sunscreen that is needed to cover the body of an average adult is around six full teaspoons of lotion. Dr Laffoy said you should expect to use about a shot glass full of sunscreen in order to properly cover the exposed parts of the body such as face, arms and legs.
- Don't bother with once-a-day sunscreen. Research from the UK-based consumer watchdog 'Which' tested a number of sunscreens labelled 'once a day' and found that after six to eight hours, their average protection factor fell by nearly 75pc.
- Get SPF-smart. There's not a huge difference between the level of protection offered by SPF 30 and SPF 50, says Dr Laffoy. SPF 30 will protect against about 98pc of the sun's UVB wavelength rays, while SPF 50 will protect against about 99pc. However, an SPF of 50 is recommended for children, or people at high risk of skin cancer, for example, those with a family history of the disease.