It’s been a long wait this year but, with summer fast approaching, there are more opportunities to spend time outdoors and make the most of the warmer weather.
Small amounts of regular exposure to the sun, without the skin burning, are beneficial to our health. It helps our body make vitamin D, which keeps our bones, teeth, muscles and immune system healthy. However, you should avoid too much sun.
The ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun damages the DNA (genetic material) in our skin cells. This is the main cause of most skin cancers. The damage can happen from sun exposure over a long period of time or by being exposed to too much sun and getting sunburned.
Risk of skin cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer:
BCCs and SCCs are different from melanoma.
Cases of skin cancer have increased in the last 10 years, and skin cancer is now one of the most common cancers in the UK. As we live longer, we spend more time in the sun during our lifetime. Like most cancers, skin cancers are more common as people get older. But melanoma is more common in younger people in their teens and 20s than some other cancers.
All skin tones are at risk of sun damage and skin cancer.
Top tips to stay safe in the sun
Always wear sunglasses in strong sunlight. While there it is not yet clear proof that overexposure to sunlight causes eye cancer, we know that UV light can cause short and long-term damage to the eyes.
If you are not exposed to the sun often, you can ask your GP to check your vitamin D levels. They may prescribe supplements if you have low vitamin D levels.
Following these tips will help make sure your skin does not burn in the sun. Although all skin tones are at risk of sun damage and skin cancer, take extra care if you:
Macmillan’s partnership with Soltan
Soltan are Macmillan’s Official Sun Safety Partner for a second year, working together to try to ensure everyone has access to the information and protection they need to stay safe in the sun. Soltan and Macmillan recommend using a sun cream with a minimum SPF of 30+ together with a 5-star UVA and UVB protection. Soltan was the first sun care brand to develop the UVA rating. All Soltan products have the 5-star UVA rating, giving you maximum protection. For more information about the partnership, please visit our website.
What is SPF? SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates the level of protection that a sun cream can offer against sunburn. If your skin tends to go red or burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 30 sunscreen will protect you for 30 times longer than that.
Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is the main cause of most skin cancers. Sunbeds also give out UV rays that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. There are two main types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage our skin and cause skin cancer: UVA and UVB.
Boots Mole Scanning Service
Did you know that a Mole Scanning Service is available in Boots pharmacies? Although unable to provide a diagnosis of skin cancer, ScreenCancer Dermatology Specialists can analyse an image of a mole or pigmented lesion to help identify whether it may need further investigation.
The service is operated by ScreenCancer with assistance from trained members of selected Boots pharmacy teams. Available in selected stores only. Subject to suitably trained team member availability. Eligibility criteria and charges apply. You can find out more information about this service on the Boots website.
If you are concerned about any of your moles, please see your GP.
We have more information about protecting your skin if you have had skin cancer on our website.
You can also order our easy read booklet Stay healthy – be safe in the sun.
This content has been updated in May 2023.
Im having chemo at the moment am i allowed to sit in the sun or not keep getting different answers ?
My name is Dylan and I work in the Online Community Team. Thank you for asking your question here. Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin more sensitive. This can sometimes last for several years after treatment. We always recommend that you ask your cancer doctor or specialist nurse if you need to take special care to protect your skin.
You can read more about taking care in the sun if you have had chemotherapy, here on the Macmillan website.
If you ever want to ask a Macmillan nurse a medical question, you can do so in our Ask a Nurse section, where once you post any questions you may have surrounding diagnosis, treatment and medication. They will aim to respond within 1 to 3 working days. Please keep in mind, Macmillan do not have access to any medical records. You should always seek information from your medical team first.
I hope this information helps.