Relax in the sun – smartly!

Melanoma it is the 7th most common malignant tumor in men and 8th in women. Every year, approximately 50-60 thousand new cases of skin cancer are reported in Poland. It is estimated that currently approx 3,500 new cases melanoma, and the rate of increase in the incidence is constantly increasing (according to data from the National Cancer Registry).

There is a constant increase in the incidence of melanoma in every age group. Mortality also increases with age - from 30%. after the age of 50 up to 70 percent in 80-year-olds.

The key to recovery is early reporting to a doctor, especially in older people, as well as access to modern therapies. A unified drug program has been in force in Poland since January 1, 2021, which also includes adjuvant therapy.

The incidence of skin cancer in 2019 was also slightly higher in men (16.0/100,000 cases) than in women (15.2/100,000 cases. You can get melanoma at any time in life. There is no age limit, beyond which the risk of melanoma decreases. This dangerous cancer can appear already in children, but the number of cases increases significantly only after the age of 20. Most cases are recorded in people aged 60 to 79. Continuously, with with age, the mortality rate of patients also increases. The number of skin cancers increases every year. Experts estimate that soon every second person over 60 in Poland will develop skin cancer.

Lifestyle factors are most important in the context of melanoma prevention – adequate protection of the skin against UV radiation, especially in the case of a specific phototype (especially phototypes 1 and 2, i.e. light, freckled skin prone to sunburn). Genetic conditions and family history of the disease, as well as episodes of intense exposure to ultraviolet radiation, also play a small role.

Sunscreen should be used all year round. Please remember that there are 3 types of ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. Depending on the wavelength it is:

  • UVA radiation (the radiation intensity is constant, does not change depending on the seasons, its action is spread over time, and is mainly responsible for skin aging and cancer);
  • UVB radiation (this type of radiation is responsible for the effects associated with excessive exposure to the sun, such as discoloration, freckles or burns, it is partially blocked by the ozone layer and clouds, its intensity is highest in summer, especially around noon);
  • UVC radiation (has the highest energy and is completely blocked by the ozone layer, it is highly harmful to living organisms).

The principles of melanoma prevention include primarily:

  1. Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  2. Using creams with a sufficiently high UV filter.

The popularly known SPF index determines the ability of a cosmetic to protect against UVB radiation (protection against burns). The degree of UVA protection is more difficult to determine. The indicators indicating the extent to which the cream protects against UVA radiation are IPD or PPD (PA). Another possible description of UVA protection is the UVA symbol in a circle on the cosmetic packaging. This information means that UVA protection is at least 1/3 of the SPF factor.

  1. Preventing sunburn from occurring, resulting in peeling skin.
  2. Using a hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
  3. Avoiding solariums.
  4. Regular observation of moles (once a month, observation of the entire body), and if any disturbing changes or new moles appear, immediately consult a dermatologist or oncological surgeon.

Regular observation of moles can help detect suspicious changes earlier, and thus give a chance for successful treatment and complete cure of the disease. Characteristic features that you should pay attention to during self-examination are:

  • asymmetry – irregular birthmark, spilling onto one side;
  • edges torn – a birthmark whose edges are not smooth and not round/oval;
  • red, black – non-uniform color of the birthmark;
  • big size – mole larger than 6 mm;
  • evolution – a mole that has changed in a short time, is enlarging, rising above the skin surface, itching, cracking, burning, around which several new moles have formed.


Chemical filters protect the skin by absorbing radiation. The radiation falls on the surface of the skin and is absorbed there by a filter that turns the radiation into heat. This type of filter contains many chemicals. This is necessary if we want to be guaranteed full protection.

In turn, the ability of minerals to penetrate into the bloodstream depends on the size of their particles. All particles larger than 100 µm have no ability to penetrate the blood. That's why many manufacturers emphasize on the packaging of their sunscreens that they do not contain nanoparticles. They are harmful not only to humans, but also to aquatic organisms. Zinc oxide as a protective substance against solar radiation was accepted until the end of 2014, after that date it could only be an ingredient of make-up cosmetics or as a soothing substance, e.g. in cosmetics for children. This is all because zinc oxide was used in cosmetics mainly in the form of nanoparticles, which accelerated skin aging when exposed to the sun. The ban lasted until 2016, when zinc oxide can again be used to produce sunscreen cosmetics. Titanium dioxide, in the form that can be used in cosmetics, occurs as rutile and anatase. Of which, rutile is most often used in natural cosmetics, which is also much more popular and, as research shows, much safer due to the fact that it does not change its properties even when exposed to high temperatures.

It should be remembered that vitamin D deficiency, which is common in Poland, is not due to excessive protection against UV radiation. The cause of deficiencies may be an incorrect diet, problems with the absorption of microelements or lifestyle, because no filter provides 100% protection against the sun, and therefore UV rays will always reach the skin and vitamin D will be synthesized.

Mariola Borowska, Ph.D

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