You may think sunning yourself all day long is a sure fire way to get a healthy tan... but are you getting more than you bargained for?
There's plenty of evidence that strong sunlight is extremely dangerous to the skin. Over exposure can cause skin cancer - often of the relatively non-threatening kind ('rodent ulcers'), but also the more lethal melanoma, a disease which has increased dramatically over the past 20 years.
In Australia, (where most large skin cancer studies have been performed), studies show that almost 50 per cent of the total population will develop a skin cancer at some time in their lives. This is, no doubt, due to the hot exposed conditions and the unsuitability of pale skin.
The Australian government has gone to enormous expense to educate the population about this danger, and the use of effective skin creams coupled with reduction of sun-hours seems to be starting to work.
Don't spend too many hours in the hot sun. Try and avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm.
Cover up - with clothing and/or a really effective barrier cream factor 15+ infants 50+.
Don't let children burn in the hot sun. This is known to be a real risk factor for melanoma in later life.
Take a peep at yourself now and again! Or get a friend or partner to do it for you. Any non-healing skin ulcer, or a pigmented area such as a mole which changes in appearance, starts to bleed or enlarge, should be viewed with suspicion.Wear a wide brimed hat and sunglassess.
This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Trisha Macnair in August 2005.
First published in February 1999.