Page 9

Too Much Fun In The Sun? We have all been there before, and typically it happens during the early summer days when we can’t get enough of the sun that’s been hiding away all winter long… sunburn! Sunburn is our body’s response to excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation or UV. It is an inflammatory reaction of the skin, and medically it is actually classified as a first-degree burn. So what is UV radiation? It is a form of light energy which humans cannot see with the naked eye. The sun emits it and reaches our earth and our skin. This light energy is able to penetrate the skin and cause genetic mutations which leads to cancer. There are two common categories of UV light which have a very high association with causing cancer: UV-A and UV-B. UVA is known to have a role in skin ageing and wrinkling and is able to penetrate the skin more than UVB. UVB radiation is the primary cause of reddening and sunburn of the skin. When you go into the outdoors, the skin becomes red soon after sun exposure, peaking in intensity at about 12-24 hours. The best thing to do at this time is escape the sun and drink plenty of water, as you are likely to be dehydrated too! Then comes the pain, heat and tenderness the next day. A cool compress or damp cloth over affected areas can sooth the skin. Aloe Vera is also commonly used, and although it does not speed up the recovery time, it helps ease the pain. After 4-7 days, the damaged skin begins to break away and peel, leaving new and healthy skin underneath. It’s important to be extra vigilant in protecting this new skin for the first few days, as it is especially vulnerable to further sunburn. The best treatment for sunburn is preventing it in the first place! Slip slop slap! That means wearing sun-protective clothing, donning a hat and sunglasses, applying sunscreen and seeking shade where possible. Sunscreen is most effective if put on 20 minutes before going outdoors, and being reapplied every two hours afterwards. It’s important to be particularly vigilant in the middle of the day when the UV levels are most intense. UV levels are often reported in the media daily, and can be used as a guide to determine the appropriate amount of sun protection required. The higher the UV index, the greater risk of UV radiation damage to our skin, which can even happen on apparently overcast days. So why does protecting ourselves against sunburn really matter? Ultimately the aim is to prevent skin cancer. Skin cancer is divided into 2 broad groups, melanoma and “non-melanoma” types. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with 2 in 3 Australian’s being diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70. The majority of

diagnosed skin cancers are of the non-melanoma type, and are generally considered less “dangerous” as they are unlikely to spread around the body and become fatal. Melanoma on the other hand is extremely dangerous, often affecting young people and was the cause of over 1500 deaths in Australia in 2011. In terms of choosing a sunscreen, remember that it is important to protect yourself from both UV-A and UV-B. As a general rule of thumb, always look for a sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher and is ’broad spectrum’. The “SPF” rating system is not a measure of the ‘amount of protection’ but rather, it tells you how long it will take for UVB to redden the skin with the product compared to without the product. “SPF 15” will take the sun 15 times longer to redden the skin compared to not having sun protection. Many sunscreens have ‘multi spectrum’ and ‘broad spectrum’ written on their products which means that it has some form of UVA protection and UVB protection, but ‘broad spectrum’ does not indicate how much protection it gives, so don’t take the companies word on it! To find out which ingredients within sunscreens will help with UVA or UVB, email into Project Third World or visit: “skincancer.org”. Early diagnosis is essential to the treatment of skin cancer, particularly in the case of melanoma. It’s important for each and every one of us to become familiar with our own skin. That means your entire body from head to toe, as skin cancers can occur on skin not normally exposed to sun (including the soles of your feet!). What often causes confusion is that people are unsure if moles and freckles (which we all tend to have) are harmless or potentially dangerous. What’s most important is to look out for change in these moles and freckles. If you notice new spots, or moles that are changing in colour, thickness or shape, or begin to crust and bleed consult your doctor. Even if you haven’t noticed any of these, next time you are visiting your local doctor consider asking them to take a look at any moles or freckles you may have, particularly ones on your back which are difficult to see and often unnoticed. Although UV damage to our skin can be harmful, it’s important to remember that moderate sun exposure is actually good for the body. It stimulates the production of vitamin D, which is important for bone health. But don’t use that as an excuse to lie in the sun for hours on end! During summer, most people require less than 30 minutes of sun exposure per day to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Achieving these levels can be more challenging in winter however, with most people requiring 2-3 hours of sunlight per day. So remember to take care of your skin this summer and slip, slop, slap! -Lauren Simionato

Dec 2013

Profile for Positively Transforming World

PTW: December 2013  

Raha Moharrak and James Saward-Anderson share their stories of climbing Everest and running from London-to-Rome in PTW Magazine. Health, edu...

PTW: December 2013  

Raha Moharrak and James Saward-Anderson share their stories of climbing Everest and running from London-to-Rome in PTW Magazine. Health, edu...

Profile for ptwmag
Advertisement