- Article by Natural Netwalking member Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, Director and GP at Your Doctor -

The summer months bring a whole host of new activities and outdoor ways to have fun, however we need to keep exposure to ultraviolet rays at the forefront of our minds. Skin cancer is one of

the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 2500 people in the UK dying from skin cancer every year so it is vital to protect yourself and your skin particularly over the summer months.


  1. Vitamin D – The body should attain all the vitamin D it needs during the summer months from sunlight so you shouldn’t need to take supplements during this season. However, this does not mean you should sit in direct sunlight with little protection for hours on end. The human body generally makes enough vitamin D from being outside for 20-30 minutes daily, even if the sun exposure is just to your forearms, hands and lower legs. 
  2. Understanding the sun – Although it’s recommended to spend some time in the sun in order to boost our levels of vitamin D, it’s important to not overexpose your skin to the sun as it can cause skin damage, eye damage and even suppress your immune system. Sunburn dramatically increases the risk of skin cancers. Studies have found that experiencing sunburn five times throughout your life more than doubles your risk of skin cancer. In more than 4 out of 5 cases, skin cancer is a preventable disease.  Extra care should be taken if you have paler skin, freckles, red or fair hair, have many moles, or if there is a family history of skin cancer.  Skin can burn in just 15 minutes in the summer sun. Make sure you keep yourself fully protected over the summer months.
  3. What do SPF numbers actually mean? – Many of us reach for a low factor sun cream because we think we will get a better tan but high factor creams do not prevent us from tanning they just prolong the length of time it takes to build up a tan and prevent you from actually burning when sun bathing. Use an SPF of at least 30 and reapply regularly.  Children should wear 50 SPF.
  4. UVA vs UVB - There are three wave lengths of ultraviolet radiation which we need to be aware of – UVA, UVB and UVC.  UVC does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, so it is UVA and UVB that we need to protect our skin from.  UVA radiation causes sun-induced skin ageing such as wrinkles, leathery skin and brown pigmentation.  UVB radiation is mostly responsible for causing sunburn and this is linked with malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (types of skin cancer). Stay out of the direct sun between 11am - 3pm, even more so in hot countries 
  5. How to treat sunburn – Make sure you act fast if you can feel yourself getting burnt. This will lessen your chance of experiencing severe skin damage and improve your recovery time. 
    • Go into the shade and cool the area with a damp towel for 10-15 mins 
    • Moisturise 
    • Hydrate by drinking a large glass of water.
    • Avoid touching or scratching the area, cover up and avoid the sun
    • Seek medical advice if blistering covers over 20% of your body.
  6. Sun stroke – Sunstroke can result in a body temperature greater than 40c, red, dry or damp skin, confusion, headache, being very thirsty and dizziness. Onset can be sudden or gradual. Move to a cool place, lie down with your feet up, drink plenty of water or rehydration drinks, cool your skin and ask someone to fan you. Cold packs are also good.  The best way to avoid sunstroke is to drink plenty of cold drinks, take a cool bath or shower, avoid the sun between 11 am and 3pm, and avoid extreme exercise and alcohol when its hot outside.  If you feel really ill, have shortness of breath, or are unresponsive someone needs to seek medical help immediately.
  7. Regularly examine yourself – New moles, blisters or even scabs can be signs of skin cancer. Check your body from head to toe as often as possible, especially during the summer months. Be wary of any new spots or anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin. If you have any concerns, book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible to discuss this. 


  1. Melanoma skin cancer - There are two common forms of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanomas are less common but are more dangerous. 70% of melanoma cases are not associated with existing moles and are more likely to appear as new moles or new patches of skin. Melanomas are often black, brown and pink, their edges may appear blurred or faded and they are usually 6mm or wider in diameter.
  2. Non-melanoma skin cancer – Although more common, this type of cancer is considered less serious as it is less likely to spread to other areas of the body. This type is most commonly found in areas which are used to sun exposure such as the face, ears and hands. Non-melanomas differ as they appear as scabs that do not heal, crusty areas of skin or bumps that grow over time. This type of cancer crops up mainly after long-term sun exposure. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
  3. There is no way to safely use a sunbed - Those who use sunbeds increase their risk of melanoma by around 20% compared to individuals who have never used one before. Over 100 deaths in the UK are caused as a direct result of sunbed use every year. 
  4. Men are more likely to get skin cancer compared to women – 1 in 36 males and 1 in 47 females will be diagnosed with skin cancer in the UK because of behavioural differences. Men are perceived to be less likely to use sun cream effectively, look for or be concerned over any new lumps or bumps related to skin cancer or effectively treat instances of sunburn.  

86% of melanoma skin cancer cases were said to have been preventable in the UK. Make sure you are effectively protecting your skin, keeping in the shade when appropriate, avoiding sunbeds and keeping an eye out for any new or changing lumps and bumps. 

Your Doctor is your local private GP service, with clinics in Buckinghamshire and at Champneys in Hertfordshire, offering a wide range of general medical services and proactive support to help you and your family stay healthy. 

Riccardo qualified at the Royal Free Hospital in 1998 and initially pursued a career in ENT. His particular interest in family medicine encouraged him to choose a General Practice career and he has been qualified for nearly 10 years as a GP. He was Clinical Lead for the services division of The Practice Group and has helped to develop primary care services for the NHS. His specialist interest in ENT meant he has developed and delivered intermediate ENT care services throughout London.

He has developed interests in surgical specialities, health promotion, paediatrics, corporate medicals, ENT and aesthetics/skin. He is passionate about developing the best care services for families and patients.

For more information  please call them on 0330 088 2020 or visit their website for more information

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