Unless you’re living on the equator, you probably love the sun and really look forward to the warmer months. And since it’s practically summer all year round in temperate Australia, there’s no excuse not to soak up as many rays as you can.

Make no mistake, the sun's rays can make you feel good and, in the short term, make you look good too. However, the colour that you get from the sun, or a tanning bed, actually accelerates the effects of ageing and increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

So, next time you decide to lounge around in the sun like a lazy lizard, consider using a high SPF sunscreen, and limit your exposure. Never forget that exposure to the sun causes:

    • Freckles

    • Damage to your eyes

    • Cataracts (clouding of the eye lens)

    • Fine and coarse wrinkles (i.e. speeds up ageing)

    • Benign tumours

    • Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions

    • Mottled pigmentation (discoloured areas)

    • Yellow discolouration (sallowness)

    • Destruction of elastic and collagen tissue (elastosis)

    • Dilation of small blood vessels (telangiectasias)

Who would have thought the sun could be so harmful? At this point, you’re probably thinking that you shouldn’t ever venture out in the sun again. Not so, say the experts.

We all need a little sun. After all, it's our primary source of vitamin D, one of the most important vitamins in the body – responsible for hundreds of genes, and with a vital role in brain health.

Fortunately it doesn't take much time in the sun (a couple of minutes per day) for most people to get the vitamin D they need. And, with the proper knowledge and care, you can actually enjoy the sun without exposing yourself to the any of its dangers.

Start by boosting your knowledge on the three types of ultraviolet rays. They’re all damaging and are listed as follows:

UVA rays

    • These make up most of our sun exposure.

    • They pass effortlessly through the earth’s protective layer (ozone).

    • The cause ageing and contribute to skin cancer.

    • They’re dangerous throughout the day.

    • They penetrate deep into the skin, causing serious cell damage.

    • 85% of UVA rays penetrate thick glass.

    • 77% of the rays penetrate a metre of water and wet cotton clothing.

    • UVA rays cause cataracts and blindness.

    • Welding torches emit UVA rays.

    • UVA rays are also found in tanning beds

UVB rays

    • Are partially absorbed by the ozone layer.

    • Cause sunburn.

    • Increase your chance of cataracts.

    • Negatively affect your immune system.

    • Contribute to skin cancer.

    • Tan your skin.

    • 35% of UVB rays penetrate thick glass.

    • 50% of these rays penetrate a metre of water and wet clothing.

    • UVB rays cause your blood vessels to expand and leak fluid (sunburn).

UVC rays

    • Are the most dangerous.

    • Lead to skin and other cancers.

    • Have a shorter wavelength than UVA and UVB rays.

    • Are, fortunately, mostly absorbed by the ozone layer.

Be sun-wise

With the right precautions, you and your loved ones can safely enjoy the sun. Here are the most effective strategies:

    • Seek shade when the sun is at its highest (between 10am and 3pm).

    • If you’re in the sun during this time, apply and reapply protective sunscreen.

    • Wear sunscreen whether you’re dark or light skinned.

    • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after sweating or swimming.

    • Use a sunscreen even on cloudy, cool or overcast days.

    • Wear sunscreen every day.

    • Don’t simply rely on foundation. Apply sunscreen as well.

    • Get a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher that says "broad-spectrum".

    • Make sure you sunscreen is water-resistant.

    • Wear a hat and UV-protective sunglasses when you’re outdoors.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any mark, bump, blemish or mole that’s changing, growing or bleeding. Early detection of any form of cancer makes treatment more effective.

REMEMBER: The sun can be fun, but only if you stay sun-wise.

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