This Sun Awareness Week be UV aware

This Sun Awareness Week [May 3-9] the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are encouraging people to stay safe in the sun and to be UV aware.

Denise McCallion, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the PHA, said: “As the weather improves and the temperatures rise, many of us will be spending more time outdoors in our gardens or yards either gardening or relaxing with our families and friends, or going outdoors to get some exercise. It is important when spending time outside, to be sun safe and ensure that both adults and children are not overexposed to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

“Just one episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, can double the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.”

The Solar UV Index, which is available at www.metoffice.gov.uk/uv, shows how much solar radiation is reaching us from the sun and how careful we need to be.

“When the UV index is three or more we need to protect our skin and eyes,” said Denise. “It is important to find out what the UV index is going to be throughout the day.”

“In Northern Ireland we are exposed to higher levels of UV rays between March and October, even on a cool or cloudy day. The sun is particularly strong around the middle of the day, from 11am to 3pm.”

Children especially need to be protected from the sun and we need to take steps to protect them.

“Time outside is good for our health,” said Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Coordinator at Cancer Focus NI

“For most people, just a few minutes’ exposure to the sun is enough to top up our vitamin D levels. However, over-exposure to UV radiation can cause permanent damage to our skin. Everyone is at risk of UV damage, but certain groups are particularly at risk including babies and children, those with fair hair and skin, outdoor workers and people with a family history of skin cancer.”

Top tips to help protect against harmful UV rays:

  • know the UV index and when the UV index is three or more, protect your skin and eyes;
  • seek shade when the UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm;
  • cover up in the sun with a long sleeved t-shirt and a broad brim hat;
  • wear sunglasses that have CE or EN Standard Marks, which carry a UV 400 label and offer 100% UV protection. This will ensure they provide adequate protection from both UVA and UVB;
  • sunglasses should fit your face well and relatively snugly so that light doesn’t enter your eye from around the lens;
  • use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 for UVB protection and UVA 4-stars.

Further information on taking care in the sun at: www.careinthesun.org/uv

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