Be Sun Smart: Tips for minding your skin in the sun
Friday, May 17, 2019

As the Irish population continues to age, the incidence of cancer is on the rise.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland with almost 12,000 cases in the country in 2015. 1,118 of these were melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. The National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) expects this number to double by 2040.

Early Detection

Early detection is vital. If spotted early up to 90% of cases are curable. In the case of melanoma skin cancer spotting it early can save your life. For this reason, it is important to get to know your skin, check it every month for change and speak to your doctor if you are worried.

The SunSmart Code

The good news (if you can call it that) about skin cancer is that we know the cause and that it is preventable. 9 out of every 10 cases are caused by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. Over exposure to UV rays, which leads to tanning, redness or burning of the skin, causes damage to skin cells. While much of this damage is repaired, some remains and can lead to skin cancer later in life. Reduce your risk by following the SunSmart Code.

The SunSmart Code initially began in Victoria in Australia in the early 1980’s.  This part of Australia has seen a fall in the incidence of skin cancer and this has been directly linked to the introduction of the SunSmart programme.  We should all be smart in the sun all year round, but specifically between the 1st of March and the 30th of September every year both in Ireland and abroad.

The SunSmart code is made up of 5 key points:

1. Seek Shade

Shade can provide 75% protection against UV rays. Shade can include patio umbrellas, parasols on prams and veranda areas in playgrounds.  Car windows don’t provide UV protection and it is possible to burn through glass.

2. Slip on some Clothes

Clothing gives extremely effective protection from UV light. It also doesn’t wear off, rub off or cause skin irritation.  Some fabric is better than others at delivering protection.  Select shirts and trousers with cotton or linen.  Shirts should have a collar and ¾ sleeve, likewise trousers should have a ¾ length with darker material if possible.

3. Slap on a hat

A hat with a broad brim (6 inches) is preferable. Baseball hats are inefficient as they do not cover the ears and the back of the neck.

4. Wear Sunglasses

UV exposure may cause eye irritation and if chronic can cause cataracts and cancer of the eye. Everyone, including children, need to wear sunglasses when outdoors with an EU rating

5. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an essential part of the SunSmart code. Look out for the following when purchasing sunscreen:

  • A ‘broad-spectrum’ sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB; that is factor 30 or 50
  • Check the products use-by date and store it below 30°C.
  • Choose a water-resistant type if sweating or you intend to swim
  • If in doubt seek the advice of your pharmacist who can recommended which sunscreen suits you and your family
  • Always check for the UVA logo on the bottle

Sunscreen application

  • Apply to dry skin 20 minutes before going outside
  • For the average adult you will need 35mls of sunscreen to cover the whole body. We recommend using a measure of half a teaspoon of sunscreen to cover each arm, the face, neck and ears. Use a measure of one teaspoon for each leg, the front and the back of the body.
  • Reapply every two hours regardless of the instruction on the packaging

 Woman on beach applying sun cream wearing straw hat

 Pop into your local CarePlus Pharmacy for advice on sun protection as well as our amazing offers on sun screen in store.