Sun Safety

It's going to be hot this weekend. And I'm more aware than ever that I need to make sure I don't burn. After having radiotherapy, the skin is more prone to burning, stays sensitive for many years and is at a higher risk of long-term sun damage including cancer. If I do burn my left arm, it can increase the risk of me getting lymphedema (a permanently swollen hand and arm) in the future. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin more sensitive to sun damage, and this can last for many years as well.

I've joined up with
Macmillan to host a tweetchat to promote sun safety, and help people enjoy being the sun, sensibly. It's Thursday 11th August, 12-1pm (BST). What we want is for you all to tweet questions you have about tanning, burning, skin cancer, using the hashtag #sunsafety, and then we'll do our best to answer them all.


The thing is, a lot of us feel better, and think we look better, when we have a tan. Because I'm still off work, I spend a lot of time in the garden. I always wear high factor sunscreen, but I've still got a bit of a tan. Everyone tells me I look really good, i.e. healthy, even when I was feeling exhausted as I recovered from radiotherapy.

It's funny how damaging our skin makes us look healthy. When I was a wee girl, the dangers of sunburn weren't as widely known, and people generally weren't as careful in the sun. I was one of those girls who would burn wearing Factor 30 in the shade, and probably got burnt every year we went on holiday.

You think that skin cancer will never happen to you.
Melanoma is rare. How many of us check our moles regularly to look for cancerous changes?

And if you do get an 'elderly' type of
skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma - BCC, or squamous cell carcinoma - SCC), it can just be removed and you'll be fine.

Sadly, I lost a dear friend a couple of months ago. He had melanoma (skin cancer) 7 years ago. He had an operation to remove it, and was given a 95% chance of survival. But it came back. To his bones and his brain. There is no chemotherapy that can treat melanoma once it's spread. He was younger than me. He had a wife and 2 beautiful children. You always think it will never happen to you.

When I look at myself now, I can see the damage that being in the sun has caused. Dry wrinkly skin on the backs of my hands, a face covered in freckles with pigmented areas that go really dark when I tan. The things I would go back and change if I knew then what I knew now.

Some celebrities are doing their best to promote the fact that pale and interesting is healthy too, such as Nicola Roberts (Girls Aloud) and Nicole Kidman who always covers up with a hat, and stays out of the sun. But there aren't many like her. Every month or two I see stories on the covers of women's magazines telling stories of young women with melanoma who spent their teens lying on sunbeds. I can even remember the girls at my school putting baby oil, and when desperate, cooking oil, on their legs to speed up their tan.

When you next go outside in the sun, just take a moment or two to think and prepare - do I have sunscreen on? Do I need a hat? Should I carry sunscreen with me to top-up during the day? Do I have a cover-up incase I feel myself starting to burn. Your friends may think you're being silly. Believe me, you're not. Nobody wants to get cancer. Skin cancer is one cancer where you can reduce your risk.

I'm going to end with that old Aussie quote - Slip, Slap, Slop
- Slip on a shirt
- Slap on the sunscreen
- Slap on a hat

Come and talk to us next Thursday, 11th August 12-1pm BST (#sunsafety) and help me spread the message.

© 2013 Liz O'Riordan Contact Me