8 – 14 May 2017: Sun Awareness Week

It’s Sun Awareness Week in Britain!

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A picture of the sunset I caught on the way home from school one day…
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Stunning sunset at the Docklands in Melbourne!

Okay, I’m pretty sure everyone in the world is aware that there is a star really close to the Earth that we call the Sun, and that it keeps the Earth warm and lighted up in the day. Sun Awareness Week is a rather misleading term because it isn’t just about being aware of the sun. It’s about being aware of how harmful the sun’s UV rays can be.

Sure, we often talk about how being out in the sun is good because of Vitamin D and its benefits. But prolonged exposure to UV radiation can have extremely debilitative effects, beyond just sunburn and premature skin ageing. If serious, it can also cause sunburn and cataracts.

  • According to WHO estimates, 20% of the annual 12 to 15 million people who become blind from cataracts may be caused or enhanced by sun exposure.
  • An estimated 66,000 deaths occur annually from melanoma and other skin cancers.
  • Ongoing studies also suggest that UV exposure can suppress immune system responses, making us more prone to infectious diseases and limiting the efficacy of vaccinations.

These problems are increasingly worsened due to the depletion of the ozone layer.

We often think that dark-skinned people do not need to be concerned about these risks, but while it is true that darker skin has more melanin and hence a lower chance of skin cancer, the risk is still there. In fact, not only does skin cancer also affect darker skinned people, it is also often only detected at later, more dangerous stages.

So what can we do to help ourselves? Here are some ways:

  • Protective clothing, such as caps, specially designed sun-protective clothing which prevents penetration of UV rays (Uniqlo sells a lot of these!), and sun-protective umbrellas (some umbrellas still let UV rays through!)
  • Sunscreen which absorbs both UVA and UVB and an SPF of at least 15
  • Try to reduce tanning and even the use of tanning devices like sunbeds. Even though they claim to tan safely, there is still some risk behind them.
  • Eat food high in anti-oxidants, such as Goji berries, wild blueberries, cranberries, pecans, artichokes, even dark chocolate.
  • Protect your eyes with proper sunglasses! Don’t buy cheap imitations or low quality sunglasses. While they allow you to see into the sun without squinting, they are pretty much useless in blocking UV radiation. This makes things even worse than having no sunglasses because without squinting, your eye is exposed to even more UV radiation!

Hope everyone will spread the message about the harms of UV radiation and encourage your family and friends to step up their sun protection!

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