Tanning – beautifying or a death wish?

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‘Everything’s better with a tan’ – we have all heard this before and possibly subscribed to this school of thought.

With the warmer months coming and our beach holidays booked, we may even try to prep for it with a cheeky sunbed or a few hours in the garden on those rare hot spring days.

However, the bad news is that skin cancer is on the rise and new diagnoses for two types of skin cancer have increased in recent years, according to specialists.

And, it’s not only sun that gives off sun-damaging ultraviolet rays. Some artificial sunlight sources do too and skin damage can accumulate over time, often leading to skin cancer, which is why dermatologists recommend we use sunscreen every day, all year round on all exposed skin.

Unfortunately, we are a nation of sun worshippers – probably because we don’t get much of it in the UK – and, despite many sun-awareness campaigns over the decades, seeking tans indoors and al fresco remains a popular activity for too many of us.

The scary fact, however, is that you may already have increased your risks of sun cancer – the burnt shoulders of our adulthood raises the risk massively.

And, according to the authors of this latest study, the shifts in exposure to UV light means that basal cell tumours on the torso have increased, as have squamous cell carcinomas on arms and legs.

That’s why they recommend that we use sunscreen on all exposed skin, even when the sun is not out.

Dr JJ Masani has been listed in Tatler’s Top 50 Doctors and is the clinical director of the Mayfair Practice.

He agrees that the age when sun damage has the worst effect is when we are young and get burnt or when we use sunbeds.

He also believes that it is thanks to an increased use by doctors of dermoscopy – a technique for examining the appearance of the skin to diagnose skin problems – that we have seen a rise in skin cancer figures due to an increase in the accuracy of skin cancer diagnosis.

For Dr Masani, it is all about prevention, protection and correction when it comes to skin care.

He says: ‘All cancers are primarily a disease of ageing and, because we are living longer, we are seeing an increase in skin cancers and other cancers. We encourage skin protection in our Mayfair practice. We also stock medical grade products for prevention, including sun blocks, and educate our patients about their use, whilst at the same time ensuring they get enough vitamin D from early morning sunlight. We also stock medical grade vitamin A and C for good skin health.’

And should we have any concerns about our skin health?

Dr Masani recommends: ‘Visit your doctor or ask for a dermatologist’s opinion as soon as possible. I have seen a rise in the numbers of patients seeking excision of moles in my practice – often aged between 30 and 40 – and my advice is always to remain cautious when the sun comes out.’

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