Talking about the sun and its dangers might seem a bit strange after a weekend of heavy rain here, but frankly I don’t think there’s a right or wrong time to have this discussion, so long as we have it.
It was prompted by an article written by a journalist in the UK – where of course it’s still winter – a journalist who, like me, in her 20s liked the sun and having a sun tan almost more than anything else. Sadly to her detriment, as she’s just had the fight of her life against melanoma.
I remember very clearly this time of year in the UK. I would suffer quite badly with Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Just after Christmas and New Year when there was plenty to keep you busy, I would suddenly fall into February with a thud and what always felt like a blank, empty space in front of me. A bleak, grey sky with nothing in particular to focus on or look forwards to doing.
I would look at my white, sickly looking skin and think: “Sun – time for a holiday, somewhere hot.”
In the build up to said holiday there would no doubt be a series of sun-beds – either borrowing one from a friend to use at home or going to a solarium for a series of sessions.
On holiday, I knew the sun was dangerous and used sunscreen – you know, factor 2 or something ridiculous and would just go out there and as me and my best friend would say “lie and fry”.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I got sunburnt, but I don’t think I really got the message until I moved to Australia.
Here there are warnings everywhere you look, constantly you meet and hear stories of people who have had skin cancers cut out of their hands, arms, shoulders, back, legs or face.
Occasionally it’s much worse and it’s full on malignant melanoma, and then the worst case scenario when someone dies.
For years the mantra here has been “Slip, slop, slap“. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat!
Children have to wear wide-brimmed hats to school and there’s plenty of shade in the school yard.
I can no longer just sit out in the sun all day (nor do I want to do so). I do it in very short bursts usually later in the day and get sufficient Vitamin D either on an early morning walk or just collecting the newspaper off the drive. You only need a few minutes of sun on your forearms to get the sufficient amount. Oh yes, and I now use factor 50 sunscreen.
I regularly have my skin checked following my years of sun-worshipping. So far I’ve been lucky.
But recently I was with a group of Australians who spent the week bemoaning the fact that the weather wasn’t good enough to sit by the pool all day and they would have to go home without a tan.
I was gob-smacked to say the least. If we can’t get the message here, what hope is there in countries that don’t have such good weather for most of the year?
“Oh an hour won’t hurt.” Well actually yes it can!
Seriously – skin cancer kills. Please heed the warnings and don’t be another statistic.