Dubai: While weather reports earlier this month reported temperatures as high as 50 degrees in some parts of the UAE, the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation to unprotected skin are at an all-time high.
Precautions like applying sunscreen, wearing wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve clothing, and seeking shade, especially during peak sun intensity hours, are necessary.
Dr Lana Kashlan, Consultant Dermatologist, CosmeSurge Clinic Marina Dubai, advices those without any protection, to limit their time in the sun to no more than 10 minutes per day.
According to UAE meteorologists, the UV radiation starts increasing in May and reaches its maximum level in July and August.
Protection from the sun is crucial with SPF recommendations of 30 or higher that are broad-spectrum, and block out UVA and UVB radiation. Combining different sunscreens does not lead to more protection.
“You can’t rely on combining different SPFs because the SPF is developed based on highly particular studies that are done in the lab. The problem with mixing sunscreens is that you don’t know how much of each bottle you’re getting, so it doesn’t really accumulate in effectiveness,” said Dr Kashlan.
She pointed out that using the right sunscreen can, however, protect the skin against harmful rays. “You’re much better off just getting an SPF that is higher to begin with than to try to make your own combination,” she added.
Pointing out that “there is no such thing as a healthy tan,” Dr Kashlan said the act of tanning is a melanin response to damaged skin cells. “Healthy tans do come in a bottle as a self-tanner or airbrush spray tan,” she added.
The use of swimwear and active wear that is designed with UV protection is also adviced.
Similar to the SPF in sunscreen, such swimwear actually has UPF (a UV protective factor).
“In place of regular swimwear, people can wear swim shirts and cover ups that virtually have sunscreen built into them. It’s great for kids because it can be really hard to put sunscreen all over a child and re-apply. They are labelled with UPF tags, which indicate how much UV radiation is being blocked,” explained Dr Kashlan.
The skincare specialist explained that the melanin in skin is its own natural sunscreen. Melanin alone, which gives a person’s skin its colour, provides an SPF level of four. “Certainly, the fairer you are, the more susceptible you are to sunburns and skin cancer. The majority of Caucasian or white population will develop a skin cancer at some point in their lives if they live long enough. This is far more common than people realise,” she added.
However, the false sense of invulnerability with darker skin types is a common problem as well. Dr Kashlan warned, that just because darker skin types have more melanin in their skin and more protection, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get skin cancer.
“In many instances, my darker patients will tell me ‘I don’t get sunburns. I don’t need sunscreen.’ In truth, they absolutely need to protect themselves.”
Tanning and cancer risk
According to Dr Kashlan, age is a relevant factor for skin cancer but it can also be misleading:
- Skin cancer develops after chronic accumulation of sun exposure
- The more lifetime sun exposure a person has, the higher chance of developing skin cancer
- ‘Melanoma’ is a type of skin cancer that arises from moles and skin pigment cells
- ‘Melanoma’ is more common among young people from the age range of 18 to 35
Warning signs and precautionary measures — the ‘A, B, C, D’ of moles or melanoma for self-examination;
- The ‘A’ is for ‘asymmetry’ — moles should be round and symmetrically even
- The ‘B’ is for the ‘border’ around the mole, which should be even and not jagged
- The ‘C’ is for ‘colour’ — there should only be one consistent colour
- The ‘D’ is for ‘diameter’ — anything bigger than a pencil eraser or six millimetres is suspicious and worth having evaluated