Sun Aware 2021

This campaign, hosted in collaboration with our very own Dermatology Society, aims to raise awareness of the damage the sun can do to our skin. Get involved by exploring our helpful resources, & by becoming sun-aware.

26th April - 2nd May

With sunnier weather fast approaching, the aim of this campaign is to increase awareness of sun damage and skin cancer amongst Newcastle University students. The week will be kicked off by a Q&A event with one of the dermatologists from the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Dr Remus Winn, where staff and students will have the opportunity to have any of their skin-related questions answered. Throughout the rest of the week NUSU and Newcastle Dermsoc will be providing key information on Instagram and the NUSU website about the effects of the sun on skin.


Q&A Event

Topic: Q&A with a Dermatologist - DermSoc x NUSU SUN AWARE
Time: Apr 26, 2021 06:00 PM London

This event is an opportunity for any questions students or staff may have about skin cancer, skin or dermatology to be answered. The format will be a relatively informal conversation with opportunities to submit your questions in advance of the event. Alternatively, any questions that come to participants during the event will be answered too. Answering your questions will be Dr Remus Winn. He is a dermatology registrar and works at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Use this link to submit any questions you have in advance of the event.

Join Q&A Event by clicking this link

How often should you check your skin?  

The British Skin Foundation recommend checking your skin once per month. 


What are you checking for?  

CHANGES . 70% of melanomas are not from existing moles but develop from new marks on the skin. These marks could be moles, flesh-coloured bumps, flaky coloured patches or spots that won’t go away.  “Ugly duckling” moles. Do you have a mole that stands out from all of your others for some reason 


How do you check your skin?  

Ensure the room you are in is well lit. If you are alone get access to a mirror to help you view hard to see places. Methodically make your way inspecting the skin in all areas of your body.  Here is a useful order: 

  1. Face and scalp  
  2. Hands and nails  
  3. Elbows and upper arms 
  4. Neck, chest, torso, sides (remember beneath your breasts!) 
  5. Back, buttocks, back of legs  
  6. Front of legs and genitals (this is easiest if you sit down!) 
  7. Feet including the soles 

Remember what is normal for you! If it helps take pictures of marks and moles you find!  There are skin checking apps available to help guide your skin checking and track changes which can be very useful like miiskin.  


What should you do if you notice a change? 

Tell your GP! 

An important question that we need to answer in order to take better care of our skin is how to differentiate between abenign mole and a melanoma. The quickest way to do this is to take an ABCDE approach to inspect the lesion: 


Asymmetry: If you draw a line down the middle of your lesion and look at both sides, do they appear roughly the same Melanomas tend to be asymmetrical with 2 different-looking halves. 


Border: Try to map out the border of the lesion. Is it smooth and regular or irregular and ragged Melanomas tend to have ragged and irregular edges. 


Colour:Is the lesion all uniform in colour or can you see a mix of several different colours Melanomas tend to include 2 or more colours. 


Diameter: Get a ruler and measure the widest diameter of the lesion. Is it smaller than 6 millimetres? The diameter of a melanoma is generally larger than 6 mm.


Evolving: Notice whether the lesion has been changing or growing over time. Melanomas tend to evolve and change in size over time.

Having all or some of these features does not mean the lesion is definitely a melanoma, but it raises the likelihood that it might be. You should see your GP as soon as possible if you notice a lesion showing these characteristics!


Recognising melanoma in BAME individuals 

In BAME and darker-skinned individuals, melanoma often does not present along with the same patterns as in lighter-skinned individuals. An important but rare type of melanoma to be aware of is Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM). ALM tends to present on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or under the nails which are not classically areas prone to sun exposure. It is important to make a point of not forgetting these locations whenever you check your skin! 

Background and why we should be careful

  • Melanoma is the 5th most common cancer in the UK and is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Most can be cured if detected early. It is not contagious.
  • Melanomas may appear as new marks or moles on your skin or can develop from pre-existing ones.
  • Most commonly found on the body in men and on the legs in women. However, it can appear ANYWHERE including your arms, back, chest, face, hands, head, legs and body.
  • The most important preventable cause is exposure to too much UV light which may be from natural sunlight or artificial sources such as sunbeds.
  • Melanomas may cause tingling or itching symptoms in the early stages but for many, it may not cause any symptoms at all. Hence, why it is vital that we always check our skin and seek medical advice if you notice any changes.


Melanoma Facts and Figures

  • Around 15,400 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the UK each year. The incidence of malignant melanoma in Britain has risen faster than any other common cancer. 
  • Over the last decade, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma in the UK has increased by almost 50%.
  • The number of deaths resulting from melanoma will increase by 20%.
  • 51% of melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK are in males (2% of all male cancer deaths), and 49% are in females (1% of all female cancer deaths).
  • It is also becoming more common with age.
  • Men are 10% more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer than women and are 4% more likely to die from melanoma than women.


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Who is at risk?

Research found that young people aged 15 to 19 took the biggest risks and used the least protection in the sun. Even if they later revert to sun-safe behaviour as an older adult, the damage may have already been done. The risk of melanoma in later life doubles if a child or adolescent has experienced just one blistering sunburn.

Everyone needs Vitamin D

It contributes to:

  • Healthy bones and teeth
  • Regulating muscle function 
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system.

Too little Vitamin D can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased bone density (Osteoporosis)
  • Soft bones and pain (Osteomalacia)
  • Bone deformities (Rickets)
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle pain and weakness

Sources of Vitamin D:

  • Sunlight
  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring)
  • Egg yolks
  • Red meat
  • Fortified foods (like cereal and fat spreads)


Sunlight and Vitamin D

  • Sun exposure UVB rays) is the main source of vitamin D, but excessive sun exposure is the no. 1 cause of skin cancer. 
  • The time required to make sufficient vitamin D is typically short and less than the amount of time needed for skin to redden and burn.
  • Regularly going outside for a matter of minutes around the middle of the day without sunscreen should be enough.
  • We should all get to know our own skin to understand how long we can spend outside before risking sunburn. 


Should I take Vitamin D supplements

The NHS recommends taking 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day between October and March when sunlight is lowest.


Groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency

  • Not often outdoors – eg. Housebound or work in an office.
  • Institutionalised, eg. Live at a care home. 
  • Usually, wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors.
  • If you have darker skin – eg. If you have an African, African-Caribbean or South Asian background – skin pigment (melanin) blocks sunlight absorption which is essential for Vitamin D production.

These groups should consider taking daily vitamin D supplementation throughout the whole year.

Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays that increase your risk of developing skin cancer (both malignant melanoma and non-melanoma). Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday tropical sun. 

The risks are greater for young people. Evidence shows:

  • People who are frequently exposed to UV rays before the age of 25 are at greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
  • Sunburn in childhood can greatly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

It may even be more harmful, depending on factors such as:

  • the strength of UV rays from the sunbed
  • how often you use a sunbed
  • the length of your sunbed sessions 
  • your skin type – for example, whether you have fair or dark skin 
  • your age 


Damage from UV rays

  • Prolonged exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
  • You cannot always see the damage UV rays cause. The symptoms of skin damage can take up to 20 years to appear. 
  • UV rays can also damage your eyes, causing problems such as irritation, conjunctivitis or cataracts, particularly if you do not wear goggles.

Terminology – what does it all mean 

  • UV stands for ultraviolet light, It’s a type of radiation emitted from the sun. 
  • UV radiation from the sun is transmitted in three wavelengths – UVA, UVB and UVC.
  • UVC does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere - so we only need to protect against UVA and UV radiation.



UVA is associated with skin ageing – it affects the elastin in the skin and leads to wrinkles, sun-induced skin ageing as well as skin cancer. UVA can penetrate window glass and penetrates the skin deeper than UVB. UVA protection is rated with stars from 1-5, the recommended minimum protection is 4 stars.



UVB is the form of UV irradiation most responsible for sunburn and has strong links to malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. A sunscreen with a high SPF will help block UVB rays and prevent the skin from burning, and therefore damage that can cause skin cancer. The British Association of Dermatologists recommend sunscreen with an SPF of 30 as a satisfactory form of sun protection in addition to protective shade and clothing.


How do sunscreens work?

Sunscreens work by filtering or absorbing ultraviolet radiation, there are two main types of sunscreen: those that contain organic filters and those that contain inorganic filters

  • Organic filters absorb harmful UV radiation, then convert and reflect this energy back as infrared.
  • Inorganic filters contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which reflect UV radiation away from the skin.

You should also check that your chosen sun protection is photostable. ‘Photostability’ means that the filters do not break down in the sun.


Take home message

It is important to choose a sunscreen that is photostable with high SPF as well as high UVA protection! 


REF: British Association of Dermatologists “BAD Sunscreen Fact Sheet”; Australian Academy of Science “Shedding light on sunscreens” 

What is SPF

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and protects the skin from UVB radiation. It doesn’t protect against UVA.


How do SPF numbers work?

The numbers which range from 2 to +50 tell you how long your skin will take to redded with the product compared to how quickly it will redden with no protection. So if you have appropriately applied an SPF 15, it would take your skin 15 times longer to go red as compared to having no sunscreen on.

So if your skin normally reddens after 10 mins in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun for 150 mins.The higher the number the longer the protection. However, SPF is actually a measure of the degree of protection it gives you from UVB rays and should not be used to determine the length of sun exposure. 


How do I protect against UVA? 

UVA protection is rated with stars from 1-5. This rating system is called the UVA Seal, the recommended minimum protection is 4 stars.



Not all countries require the same labelling or use the same system, especially for UVA countries like Japan that use a PA system. It’s always best to bring your own trusted sunscreen from home where possible. 


SPF application: 

All sunscreens should be applied every 2 hours at the latest and more often if you are sweating or swimming. 

Overall for adults, an amount that is equivalent to a full shot glass is adequate. 

  • Face and neck: Half a teaspoon
  • Arms: One teaspoon
  • Legs: Two teaspoons 
  • Front and Back of torso: Two teaspoons


Do I need to wear sunscreen if I’m using SPF moisturisers?

If you are going to be exposed to lots of light with a UV index higher than 3 you should be using SPF 30 or above. SPF moisturisers are otherwise great for less sunny days.