Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with over 100,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. Six people die from skin cancer a day in the UK; a higher death toll than Australia, a country with a naturally warmer climate.
What is particularly frustrating when examining UK statistics is that 90% of skin cancer deaths could have been prevented if the proper precautions had been taken. For the diagnosis and death toll to dramatically reduce, the risk that sun exposure poses must first be understood. Then, people can choose to protect themselves against it.
When it comes to being UV aware, a lack of proper education is the downfall for many. For example, it is often wrongly assumed that the sun has to be shining for your skin to be damaged, when in fact 100% of UVA rays pass through clouds, meaning sun protection is crucial even on overcast days. It is also wrongly assumed that one application of sun cream is enough to withstand an entire day’s sun exposure, when in fact, it must be liberally reapplied every two to three hours.
It is this lack of knowledge on the impacts of sun exposure which is causing the death toll to dramatically ascend.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who spends a large portion of their day outside is at risk of skin cancer, which places outdoor workers in the danger zone, as they typically spend seven hours or more a day outside. Landscapers, builders, roofers, gardeners, farmers; five people from outdoor professions such as these are diagnosed with skin cancer each day, due to sun exposure at work.
School children are also at a higher risk of sun damage, as UK children spend around eight hours per week outside during break time and lunchtime, and often aren’t adequately protected from the sun. Almost 40% of children have come home from school with sunburn at some point, which effectively doubles their risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer later in life.
Education and protection
Better protection for our outdoor workers and school children against this life-threatening and highly preventable disease is crucial. Employees, parents and educational professionals should firstly be aware of the UV Index. Developed by the World Health Organisation, the UV Index is a forecast which identifies the strength of UV radiation from the sun at a particular time. When the index reaches three, a minimum SPF30 sun cream with broad spectrum UVA protection is essential.
The 5Ss of sun safety should also be adhered to by outdoor workers and those responsible for school children. That is to slip on a protective layer of clothing when outside, slop on a high-factor sun cream, slap on a hat, slide on some sunglasses and obtain shade whenever possible.
Employees, parents and teachers must receive training on sun safety and its importance. This compliancy to safety regulations has wavered in recent years, and it has been shockingly revealed that 70% of outdoor workers have received no training at all on sun safety in the workplace.
Implement training for all concerned, and place sun cream dispensers and educational material across your workplace or school, and you will not only have a more informed set of employees or pupils who are aware of the risks that the sun can carry, but they will also be healthier, happier, and will have minimised their risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer.