Sun Awareness Week

 In Awareness Campaigns, NHS Guidelines

With an estimated eight out of ten people failing to apply sun cream adequately, The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) created Sun Awareness Week to address all matters concerning skin health and the sun.

Sun Awareness WeekWhat is the aim of Sun Awareness Week?

The BAD are concerned about people’s attitudes to sun care, and Sun Awareness Week looks to educate people on the dangers of the Sun and the damage that they could be doing to themselves if they aren’t protecting themselves adequately. The campaign is carried out each year in May with the help of the BAD’s Skin Cancer Prevention Committee which has expertise in skin cancer and vitamin D.

To successfully carry out the aim of Sun Awareness Week, the campaign will focus on prevention of skin cancer, and provide advice to people on how to detect skin cancer. It will emphasise the importance on keeping an eye on your skin and note any changes, and to ensure people don’t increase their risk of getting skin cancer by going on sunbeds or getting sunburnt.

This Sun Awareness Week, we want to highlight a few dangers of the sun and how we can help protect your patients from them.

To get involved in the discussion on social media, use the hashtag #SunAwarenessWeek.

What are the dangers of the Sun?

Going out in the sun can have many health benefits, such as giving your body much needed Vitamin D which is extremely important. However, people must be extremely careful at the same time that they don’t overexpose themselves to the sun’s UV rays.

Its powerful ultraviolet rays can penetrate the skin and cause long-lasting damage if you are not protected. This can lead to sunburn, which in turn can lead to conditions such as Skin Cancer and trigger photosensitive skin reactions, particularly when taking certain medications.

Sun Burn

The skin is the largest organ in the human body and is the first line of defence against any germs or infection. This is why your skin should be looked after no matter what environment you are in. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not putting on sun cream when you go out under the sun.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and constantly getting sun burnt is seen as a leading risk factor in getting skin cancer. If this doesn’t make you want to put sun cream on every time the sun comes out, sunburn itself can be extremely painful. Sunburn is the damage of the skin when it is exposed to Ultraviolet light for a sustained period of time. It can be extremely painful and symptoms include red skin, sore to the touch, warm, tender and occasionally itchy. The skin will usually flake and peel off and be fully repaired within a week.

To prevent sunburn you should always ensure that you are wearing suitable clothing, which includes a hat that shades the face and neck, a top that covers the arms, long trousers or a skirt to cover the legs and also a pair of sunglasses to protect the eyes. If you are exposing any of your skin, it is important that you wear sun cream. This sun cream should block out both forms of ultraviolet light (UVA & UVB) and should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is one of the most common cancers and develops under the skin, and usually, presents itself in some sort of skin abnormality. Overexposure to Ultraviolet light is the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer which is what radiates from the sun and sunbeds. The NHS suggest that the other risk factors for getting skin cancer include “having a previous non-melanoma skin cancer, a family history of skin cancer, pale skin that burns easily, lots of moles or freckles, medication that suppresses your immune system and a co-existing medical condition that suppresses your immune system”.

There are symptoms of skin cancer and you should be checking your skin and monitoring any abnormalities regularly. The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is “usually the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that continues to persist after a few weeks and slowly progresses over time (months, sometimes years)”. The lumps are usually reddish in colour and firm and can ulcerate, while cancerous patches are normally flat and scaly.

Skin cancer will often present itself on areas of the skin that regularly see the sun which includes the face, ears, hands, shoulders, chest and back. There are many types of skin cancer, and if you would like more information then please visit the NHS website.


Photosensitivity is a condition where the skin is extremely sensitive to the ultraviolet rays, either from the sun or artificial. It can cause an extremely painful rash that can be quite severe.

Patients on certain drugs are more sensitive to the sun and the drugs can cause serious skin reactions. Therefore it is essential that patients at risk apply SPF50 sun cream regularly to protect themselves against photosensitivity and also should wear clothing where possible. We have compiled a list of medications that are likely to increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and anyone on these medications should be using SPF50 sun cream to protect their skin.

  • Antibiotics (4-quinolones, tetracyclines and sulfonamides)
  • Antihistamines (diphenhydramine)
  • Malaria medications (quinine, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine)
  • Cancer chemotherapy drugs (5-fluorouracil [5-FU, Efudex])
  • Cardiac drugs (amiodarone, nifedipine, quinidine, diltiazem)
  • Diuretics (furosemide, thiazides, hydrochlorothiazide)
  • Diabetic drugs (sulfonylureas [chlorpropamie])
  • Painkillers (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [naproxen, piroxicam]
  • Acne medications (isotretinoin, acitretin)
  • Psychiatric drugs (phenothiazines [chlorpromazine], tricyclic antidepressants [desipramine and imipramine])

Benefits of Sun Cream

Sun cream is a must have even when you think the sun is not out. UV rays are always shining down on us during the day and to ensure you don’t damage your skin you should apply sun cream as much as possible, especially in the hotter months. Sun cream provides a barrier between your skin and the sun that can protect you from the harmful rays. However, the protection only lasts for a finite amount of time and should be re-applied periodically. It is important that a thick enough layer of sun cream is applied and that it is allowed to absorb into the skin before being exposed to the sun.

The best way to avoid sun damage is to stay in the shade or out of the sun altogether, however, we understand that this is often not possible. Therefore it is vital that sun cream is worn as it can help protect your skin against sunburn, skin cancer and photosensitivity.

The BAD have produced some sun protection tips:

  1. Spend time in the shade during the sunniest part of the day when the sun is at its strongest, which is usually between 11 am and 3 pm during the summer months.
  2. Avoid direct sun exposure for babies and very young children.
  3. When it is not possible to stay out of the sun, keeping yourself well covered, with a hat, T-shirt, and sunglasses can give you additional protection.
  4. Apply sunscreen liberally to exposed areas of skin. Re-apply every two hours and straight after swimming or towelling in order to maintain protection.

Ashtons have a range of sun creams above SPF30 to help ensure your patient’s skin will be protected. From an infection control perspective, we recommend that you use one bottle labelled per patient rather than sharing between patients on a ward.

You can view our full sun care range on our medical supplies website.

Facts about Suncare in the UK

The BAD carried out a survey in 2016 regarding the UKs attitudes to sun care. The findings were:

  • 8 out of 10 people are failing to apply sunscreen before going out in the sun.
  • 70% of people fail to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours as recommended.
  • 72% of people surveyed admitted they had been sunburnt in the previous year.
  • 35% of people would only seek shade if they were hot, rather than to avoid burning.
  • 81% of people did wear sunglasses, the most popular form of protective wear.
  • Your chance of getting melanoma skin cancer more than doubles if you have a history of being sunburnt.
  • Every year there are 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 13,000 new cases of melanoma, resulting in over 2,000 deaths annually.

For more information on Sun Awareness Week or on skin cancer please visit the BAD’s website.



  1. The British Association of Dermatologists Sun Facts
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