Staying healthy after cancer: protect yourself in the sun

You can reduce your risk of most skin cancers by avoiding the sun when it is at its strongest and by paying attention to any early skin changes. Also, examine your skin regularly. 

      1. Avoid sun exposure

  • Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm. During this time the sun’s rays are strongest. Remember that even on cloudy or cooler days the sun’s cancer causing UV rays can still reach your skin. Sunlight can also reflect off water, clouds, sand, concrete, snow to reach you even if you are in the shade. Sunlight can also  reach below the water’s surface, so you still need protection if you are in a pool or in the sea.
  • Wear protective clothing. Clothing should be dark and tightly woven and cover your arms and legs. Also wear a broad-brimmed hat and wraparound sunglasses. (European Standard EN 1836 or British Standard BS 27 24 19 87)
  • Always wear sunscreen. Apply the cream 20 minutes before going out into the sun. Apply thickly and evenly every 2 hours no matter how high its protection.
  • Make sure you are protected against both UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen should have a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher. It should have a UVA protection rating of high or very high. Make sure to check the bottle for the UVA logo. If you have had radiotherapy, never expose the treated area to the sun. Always use a total sunblock on the treated area and use a sunscreen (SPF 30) on non-treated skin.
  • Avoid tanning beds or sunbeds. If you really want to tan, use fake tanning lotions or sprays instead.
  • See our SunSmart pages for more information about protecting yourself in the sun.

    2. Pay attention to any skin changes

  • Check your skin from head to toe every month. You could do this after a bath or shower. Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then check your sides with your arms raised.
  • Bend your elbows and look at your forearms and upper underarms and palms.
  • Look at the backs of your legs and feet and the spaces between your toes. Also remember the soles of your feet and look under your nails.
  • Check your scalp and neck with a hand mirror. Part your hair for a closer look.
  • Check your back and buttocks with a mirror. 
Your doctor and nurse can show you how to examine your skin. Ask a relative or friend to check your back or any areas which you cannot see clearly. If you notice anything unusual or something that does not go away after a month, have it checked out by your GP.

Visit our SunSmart page for much more information about protecting yourself in the sun and recognising the early signs of skin cancer. 

Date Last Reviewed: 
Tuesday, November 24, 2015