Sun damage

Bay cluster network with Reem El-Sharkawi

Dr Lamah El-Sharkawi is a GP in Uplands and Mumbles Surgery and her sister Reem El-Sharkawi is a GP Pharmacist, both are part of the Bay Cluster Network.

We hope everyone has been enjoying the warmer weather safely, however excessive sun exposure can have a negative impact on our skin. This month we will be focusing on a few medical problems that can be caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Sun Tan

This is the darkening of the skin in response to sun exposure. A suntan that develops immediately is primarily a response to UVA exposure, while a tan that develops days after exposure is mostly due to UVB. A sun tan reflects changes in the skin that are occurring on a molecular level. Individuals with certain skin types may be more or less sensitive to sun exposure, but there is no such thing as a “healthy tan.”

Sun Burn

During the warmer weather there have been increased admissions to hospitals locally with sun burn. Sun burn is injury to the skin following excessive exposure to UV rays.  This can range in severity. Having sunburn during childhood or adolescence can significantly increase your risk of developing malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer, later on in life.

Actinic Keratosis

These are rough scaly patches that develop on the skin following years of sun exposure. It is often found on sun exposed areas including face, ears, forearms, scalp and back of hands.

Bowen’s disease

Bowen’s disease is a very early form of skin cancer. The main sign is a red scaly patch on the skin. It affects the squamous cells, the outermost layer of skin and can be referred to as squamous cell in situ.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) usually appears as a small, shiny pink or pearly white lump with a translucent or waxy appearance. It is the most common form of skin cancer. It is typically not life threatening and rarely spreads, as it grows very slowly. Basal cell carcinoma may appear anywhere on the skin.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) appears as a firm pink lump with a rough or crusted surface. The lump often feels tender when touched, bleeds easily and may develop into an ulcer.

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant Melanoma is the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. It usually appears as a dark brown or black mole with uneven borders and irregular colour, with shades of black/blue, red, or white.

Preventing Sun Damage

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United Kingdom and rates continue to rise. The best way to try and minimise the risk of skin problems due to sun exposure is to prevent sun damage.

  • Spend time in shade between hours of 11-3
  • Try to make sure not to burn
  • Cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
  • Take extra precautions with children and babies
  • Use sunscreen of at least factor 30

As always if you have any skin lesions which you are worried about then please speak to your GP or ask your GP pharmacist for advice.

For further guidance on how to protect your skin in the sun please see our article from the May edition of Bay available at

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