When it comes to the sun us Brits are not great at protecting ourselves. We can be identified by the red lobster glow that radiates from our skin whilst we continue to soak up every last ray of sunshine.
Generally people fall into two categories: those who believe their skin is invincible therefore forego sunscreen and those who plaster themselves in a high spf and believe they are 100% protected for the day. But both these assumptions are false. Even spf 50 cannot protect your skin against penetrative UV radiation and skin pigment cell damage which could potentially lead to malignant melanoma cancer, the UK’s 5th most common cancer with around 13,000 cases every year.
Scientists at Manchester University and London’s Institute of Cancer Research conducted the world’s first molecular study which investigated the formation of malignant melanoma skin cancer. The study published in ‘Nature’ journal involved mice who were predisposed to skin cancer; those who were covered in spf 50 only took 30% longer to develop cancer compared to those without any sunscreen at all.
The researchers believe sunscreen can prevent short term damage e.g sunburn, but cannot prevent long term damage or the development of diseases such as skin cancer. It seems sunscreen is unable to stop radiation causing mutations in the p53 ‘guardian’ gene which produces proteins to protect the skin against sun damage. Damage of the p53 gene leaves the skin susceptible to further damage and possible tumour growth.
Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK has said that although “sunscreen has a role” we “shouldn’t just rely on this to protect our skin”. Professor Richard Marais also commented on “the importance of combining sunscreen with other strategies to protect our skin”.
“With the number of cases increasing we urgently need to understand more about disease and find new and better treatments” commented Professor Nic Jones, director at Manchester Cancer Research Centre.
How to best protect your skin:
– Wear sunscreen and reapply it every few hours, especially after swimming
– Avoid the heat of the day; 11am – 3pm
– Seek shade
– Wear a hat and sunglasses (with UV protected lenses)
– Cover up, even when swimming a rash vest/t-shirt can protect your upper body
– Try using Sunfriend, a device that optimizes how much sun you get; avoid over-exposure but still get enough vitamin D to be healthy. You can buy it here with free p&p!