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Sun safety: How to check moles on your skin

Over the last decade, melanoma skin cancer mortality rates have increased by 7% in the UK, but 86% of these cases are preventable. This is why understanding sun safety and knowing how to protect your skin on a daily basis is so important. Read on to find everything you need to know about sun safety – from checking your moles, to the difference between UVA and UVB rays, and preventing sun damage with broad-spectrum sunscreen.

How to protect your skin from the sun

The sun omits two types of UV radiation that you need to be aware of throughout the year. UVA is associated with premature skin ageing, wrinkles, and pigmentation as well as skin cancer. It also poses a risk to our skin every single day, as it can penetrate through cloud even in winter.

UVB rays are stronger in the summer months when the sun is at its strongest, and are responsible for burning and tanning the skin. It’s also the most likely to cause skin cancer. However, frequent exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can create changes at the heart of our skin cells and damage their DNA which can cause long-term skin damage and skin cancer.

As such, skin experts and dermatologists recommend applying around two teaspoons of broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and any areas of exposed skin each morning.
You will need to apply more sun protection to larger areas of your body that are exposed to sunlight.

But sun protection isn’t the only way you can protect your skin, and there are other steps you can take to prevent damage.

First of all, on hot, sunny days try to seek shade as much as possible and make sure you apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside. You should then re-apply sun protection every two hours, or more if you go swimming, swat profusely or towel-dry your skin. A hat, long-sleeved top or beach coverup, and sunglasses with UV protection will also help to prevent sun damage.

Sun fact

Did you know that SPF 30 is the minimum satisfactory form of protection? In the UK you might also see a UVA star rating system, which indicates the ratio between UVA and UVB protection. A low SPF may still be 3+ stars but the level of UVA and UVB is much lower so it is still less protective

Checking your moles

If you have moles on your face or body, it’s important that you check them regularly (around once a month) and get to know how they look and feel. You can also ask a friend or relative to help you to check areas that you can’t see such as your back, neck and ears – or anywhere you can’t see yourself. You can also use a hand-held mirror if you don’t have anyone to help.

But what changes should you look out for? To help you remember, use the A, B, C, D, E method.

  1. Asymmetry

    Are the two halves of the area different in shape?

  2. Borders

    Are the edges of the area blurred, ragged or irregular?

  3. Colour

    Is the colour uneven? Has the colour changed to a shade of black or brown?

  4. Diameter

    What size is it? Is it changing or growing in size?

  5. Evolution

    Has the area changed or evolved in any way?

Don’t forget that if you notice any changes, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Early detection of melanoma is extremely important.

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