Employee Wellbeing - Safe sun
This factsheet is aimed at raising awareness of the sun and how to avoid your risk of developing skin cancer. Understanding sunlight and the skin
A small amount of exposure to the sun is good for us as it increases our levels of Vitamin D which is known to have a positive effect on wellbeing. It is recommended that between April and September we expose our bare arms and face for at least 20 minutes twice a week.
If we expose ourselves to too much sun it is harmful and can damage the skin. It not only causes conditions such as sunburn but can also lead to skin cancer.
The two types of Ultra Violet rays are UVA and UVB.
UVA rays penetrate deeper damaging the middle layer of skin called the dermis. The dermis contains the elastic tissues which keeps skin firm, if this layer gets damaged the effects are ageing of the skin and wrinkles.
UVB rays are absorbed by the top layer of skin called the epidermis, this causes sun tanning or even burning. When the skin gets burnt the body produces more melanin (coloured pigment in our skin) to help protect against the UV rays. Although melanin stops your skin burning so easily, it does not prevent the harmful effects of UV rays.
Both UVA and UVB rays increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Who is at risk from the sun?
People with lower melanin levels are potentially at higher risk, these are usually people with lighter skin tones, freckles, blue eyes and red or ginger hair. People with darker skins are still at risk as they can also burn, just not as easily.
What are the possible problems from the sun?
Sunburn is can be caused by short-term overexposure to sun. The skin becomes red, hot and painful. After a few days the burnt skin may peel. A cool shower or bath will help. Soothing creams can help cool the sunburn and mild painkillers can sometimes help ease the pain. Children should never be exposed to sunburn, if they are burnt medical advice should be sought.
This occurs when the temperature inside the body (the core temperature) rises to up to 40°C (104°F). A normal temperature is about 37°C (98.6°F).At these temperatures, you may feel sick and develop headaches, excessive sweating and feel faint. The body is losing water and becoming dehydrated. If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke which can be serious. The treatment for heat exhaustion is to move swiftly to a cool place, out of direct sunlight, and to drink plenty of cool fluids. Recovery should happen quickly, usually within 30 minutes, and there are no long-term complications. If you have heat exhaustion, or are looking after someone with heat exhaustion, and improvement is not occurring, it is important to seek urgent medical advice.
Heatstroke is when the core body temperature rises above 40°C (104°F). It is potentially very serious. The cells in the body begin to break down, important bodily functions cease, internal organs can fail (such as the brain) and, in extreme cases, death can occur. Symptoms include vomiting, confusion, hyperventilation (fast shallow breathing) and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and you should summon immediate medical help (call 999 for an ambulance). Treatment for heatstroke in a hospital involves cooling the body to lower the core temperature, and replacing the fluids lost with an intravenous drip.
The effects of sun damage include: premature skin ageing and wrinkling, brown spots and skin cancer. These symptoms usually build up over years of repeated sun exposure.
About 9 in 10 non-melanoma skin cancers, and about 6 in 10 melanoma skin cancers (the most serious form of skin cancer) are thought to be caused by excessive exposure to the sun. In particular, episodes of sunburn greatly increase the risk. Skin cells that are damaged are at greater risk of becoming abnormal and cancerous. All people of all ages should protect their skin, but it is even more vital to protect children. Although skin cancer is rare in children, the amount of sun exposure during childhood is thought to increase the risk of developing skin cancer in adult life. Therefore, take extra care with children, and keep babies out of the sun completely.(See separate leaflets called 'Cancer of the Skin - An Overview', 'Cancer of the Skin - Melanoma', 'Cancer of the Skin - Non-melanoma' and 'Cancer of the Skin - Prevention' for more information.)
Top tips for protecting yourself from sun damage:
- Avoid spending too much time in the sun between 11 and 3 when the sun is at it’s hottest
- Wear high factor sunscreen and reapply regularly
- Reduce your risk of skin cancer by ensuring you never burn
- Cover yourself with loose clothing and sunglasses as well as sunscreen when sun is at its hottest
- Take extra care with children and ensure they never burn
Further help and information
I hope you have found this fact sheet useful. For further information on health and wellbeing please call us on: 01202 987916 or email: Hello@workwellhub.com
This fact sheet has been adapted from the NHS website – www.patient.co.uk and is for information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of information but we make no guarantee to its accuracy.