On a sunny day in Scotland – why would you want to be anywhere else? Dark corners are lit, spirits rise and the outdoors beckons. Sunshine is undoubtedly good for our minds and bodies but like many good things, excess exposure can easily tip the balance from good health to poor health.

Sunshine tops up our vitamin D levels which is important for bone health but it also tops the risk factor list for developing skin cancer. These neoplasms are the most common form of cancer in Scotland and include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell cancer and malignant melanoma. Rates are rising (17.9% in 10 years) and notably for malignant melanoma which is the 5th most common cancer in Scotland.

Current guidance for Scotland clearly says sun protection is paramount for prevention

“(Although) 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected Scottish sun exposure is safe for all….   Staying in the sun for prolonged periods without the protection of sunscreen increases the risk of skin cancer”.

Using sun screen blocks the ability to synthesise Vitamin D but we can get it from our body stores, from food and supplements. Supplemental intakes of 10 micrograms per day of vitamin D are recommended for everyone – especially in the winter months and recent evidence gathered during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this dose may confer some benefit in reducing risk of acute respiratory tract infections.

Key ways to enjoy your sunny #staycation

Taken from The British Skin Foundation:

Cover as much skin as possible

  • Pay  special attention to the shoulders which burn easily. 
  • Consider t-shirts and hats even when in the water, especially for children  
  • A hat with a wide brim is best … Note baseball caps do not shade the ears or neck, and so are not as effective
  • Cover your eyes too – sunglasses matter!

Sun creams – don’t rely on these as your only protection

  • Use at least SPF 30 (protects against UVB) AND a 4 or ideally 5-star UVA rating.  
  • Check the expiry date of your sunscreen, as out of date sunscreen will not be as effective and you risk burning (see image below)
  • Apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside, and at least every 2 hours. If you swim or sweat a lot, use it more often.
  • Use plenty of suncream – don’t skimp (see image)
  • Don’t forget to protect your lips – using a SPF30+ lip balm. 

Shade

  • Find some shade whenever possible, but especially in the middle of the day, between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. 

REMEMBER – IF IN DOUBT, CHECK IT OUT! 

  • Tell your doctor about any changes to a mole or patch of skin, or a new mole or mark on adult skin. 

Annie S Anderson & Bob Steele – SCPN Co-Directors