A sunny day makes most of us feel great, but too much sunlight can be hard on the skin. The problem is caused by the ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight. People whose job keeps them outdoors for a long time, such as farm or building site workers, market gardeners, outdoor activity workers and some public service workers could get more sun on their skin than is healthy for them. Such people can be at greater risk of skin cancer.
Who is at risk of skin cancer?
Some people are more liable to skin cancers than others. People with white skin are at most risk. Take particular care if you have:
- fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans
- red or fair hair and light coloured eyes
- a large number of moles
Workers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean origin are less at risk, but they should still take care in the sun to avoid damage to eyes, skin ageing and dehydration.
What can I do to protect myself?
Some do’s and don’ts to avoid the dangers are:
- Do try to avoid the mild reddening which is a sign of skin damage as an early sign of burning
- Do try to work and take your breaks in the shade if you can – this will reduce your risk of harming your skin and also help to keep you cool
- Do continue to take care when you go on holiday – your skin remembers every exposure
- Don’t be complacent – get to know your skin’s most vulnerable areas (e.g. back of neck, head) and keep them covered
- Don’t try to get a tan – it’s not a healthy sign. It might look good but it indicates that the skin has already been damaged
A suntan does not eliminate the long term cancer risk which is associated with prolonged exposure to the sun; nor will it protect against premature ageing. If you have any doubts seek medical advice.