THE HSE have issued an urgent warning about the harmful effects of sunbeds – here’s what you need to know.
Over 13,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, while nine out of every 10 cases are caused by ultraviolet radiation rays, most commonly associated with the sun.
But if you think sunbeds are a safer alternative, think again. Artificial UV sources like sunbeds are just as if not more dangerous.
Sunbeds can give off UV rays that are 15 times stronger than a midday Mediterranean sun, causing your skin to become damaged, sag and wrinkle.
And in a recent Twitter post, the HSE have warned that using sunbeds for the first time before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by 75 per cent.
Using a sunbed just once can increase your risk of melanoma by a whopping 20 per cent.
Harmful myths about the positive applications of sunbeds, like their ability to fight acne, are also untrue.
While the Irish Cancer Society has urged everyone to stop using sunbeds immediately, they added that some people are at an even greater risk than others.
If you fall into these categories, you should not use a sunbed under any circumstances:
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- You have fair or freckled skin
- Your skin always burns and never tans or burns before it tans
- You have a lot of moles
- You have had skin cancer or a family member has had skin cancer
- You use cosmetics or take medications that make your skin more sensitive to UV rays
What signs of skin cancer should I look for?
Skin cancer signs and symptoms vary on a case by case basis, while some people may not exhibit any at all.
However, they can appear in a number of different ways.
The Irish cancer Society has highlighted the most common signs you need to look out for.
- Small lumps
- Flat, red spots
- Firm, red lump
- A lump or spot that is tender to touch
- An ulcer that will not heal
- A lump with a scaly or horny top
- Rough, scaly patches
- A new or changing mole
No more sunbeds, but how can I be safe in the sun?
Exposure to natural sunlight is undoubtedly a healthier alternative to sunbed use, offering lower levels of UV rays and higher levels of essential Vitamin D.
However, as part of their SunSmart campaign, the HSE has urged the public to take the necessary precautions when soaking in the rays.
Knowing the UV index – When the UV index is 3 or above you need to protect your skin. In Ireland, the UV index is usually 3 or above from April to September, even when it is cloudy. Stay safe by limiting time in the sun when UV is strongest.
Slip on clothing – Cover skin as much as possible, wear long sleeves, collared t-shirts, clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through.
Slop on broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen – Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children, with high UVA protection and water-resistant. Reapply regularly. No sunscreen can provide 100 per cent protection, it should be used alongside other protective measures such as clothing and shade.
Slap on a wide-brimmed hat – Protect your face, ears and neck.
Seek shade – Sit in the cover of trees to avoid direct sunlight. Use a sunshade on your buggy or pram. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.
Slide on sunglasses – Guard your eyes against harm by wearing sunglasses with UV protection.
The HSE added that you should never deliberately try to get a suntan, avoid getting a sunburn, and NEVER use a sunbed.
Melanoma, most associated with Sunbed use, is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer, but if spotted early, it is very treatable.
If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious medical issues.
So if you do think you or someone else has any symptoms of skin cancer, contact your doctor or the emergency services on 999 or 112 immediately.