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13th March 2016

The damage the sun can do

Too much sun can cause a variety of skin problems

UVA and UVB radiation may contribute to chronic skin, eye and immune system damage, while infra-red and visible light can also cause chronic skin damage and ageing symptoms1.

And certain groups are more susceptible to suffering from sun damage than others. Anyone with fair skin; who burns or freckles easily; is exposed to the sun through work; or has a history of excessive sun exposure or cancer is even more prone to developing the following conditions caused by sun exposure:

Skin cancers

Skin cancers are one of the most common types of cancer in the world, and can be simply divided into two types: non-melanoma and melanoma.

Non-melanoma cancers (also known as carcinomas) slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin, the first sign of which is usually the appearance of a lump or patch on the skin that doesn’t heal after a few week1. The most common types are basal cell skin cancers (about 75% of all non-melanomas) and squamous cell cancers (about 20%) – both are named after the types of skin cells from which they develop2.

Research suggests that if everyone used an SPF 15+ sunscreen regularly at least until the age of 20, the number of people getting non-melanoma skin cancers could be reduced by over 25%3.

Melanoma is a rare cancer of the skin’s melanocytes (pigment cells) which often develops from a mole2 and is the most deadly form of skin cancer. If untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. It’s essential to apply sunscreen correctly and to reapply frequently, particularly when swimming or being active.

Skin cancer rates have increased rapidly in England in the past 35 years4. In 2011, there were 13,348 cases of malignant melanoma and 102,628 cases of non-malignant melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in the UK5 with a disproportionately higher rate amongst younger people6. In fact, UK deaths from this type of cancer are now overtaking Australia, which has the highest incidence in the world7. Furthermore, skin cancer was estimated to cost the NHS an estimated £105.2 million in 2008/09, and this is expected to rise to more than £180 million by 20208.

You can find out more about skin cancer using the following links:

Premature ageing

As well as being potentially harmful for your skin, the sun can also have a negative ageing effect. Repeated sun tanning contributes to premature ageing and increases the risk of skin cancers9. SunSense offers some of the best anti-ageing sunscreens for the face that can be worn everyday under make-up.


Sunburn is a reaction from exposure to UV radiation. The top layers of your skin release chemicals that cause your blood vessels to expand, causing inflammation, pain and redness.

Moles and other sunspots

These spots, while not skin cancer, may be warning signs of sun damage and future skin cancers. If you have any of these spots, you should regularly check them for changes.

Examine your skin regularly and look for any unusual changes or growths. If you are concerned about a skin lesion, consult your doctor as quickly as possible. Skin cancers can be cured if detected and treated early enough.

Remember, there is no such thing as an all-day sunscreen or waterproof sunscreen, so always reapply after water exposure, exercise, perspiring or towelling dry. SunSense high factor sunscreens have SPF50+ to offer you the best protection available.

Please Note: Always check with your doctor or skin specialist if you suspect you have any of the symptoms/conditions mentioned above.


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