Friday, 3 August 2012

Justine Sheils – Sunsmart

Happy Friday everyone!

Today’s post features another of my fantastic fellow CRUK Ambassadors. This time it’s the very glamorous Olympic Torchbearer Justine Sheils. Justine is a skin cancer survivor and she dedicated a lot of her spare time to educating people on the dangers of skin cancer and encourages people to become “Sunsmart”. Justine is a fabulous supporter for CRUK and is a previous winner of the “Ambassador of the Year” award at the Flame of Hope awards.

Justine was a sun worshiper for most of her life. She developed a sunbed habit when she was about fifteen years old and she slowly became obsessed by having a tan. Like many women, she felt better when she was brown. Eventually her habit caught up with her and she was diagnosed with skin cancer.

Justine worries that people are not properly aware of how dangerous and serious malignant melanoma is. She says: “People’s perceptions of skin cancer are it’s a spot and it can be removed, but it isn’t”

Justine has a bump that resembled a wart. It would crust, pus and then dry up. It got blacker as time went on. Justine didn’t think she would ever develop skin cancer, that sort of thing happens to other people, not her. But it did. She had to have cancer removed from her chest, then her back and then her head.

Justine has, thankfully, made a full recovery and now lives a “sunsmart” lifestyle. She bravely shares her story to discourage others from endangering themselves. Using sunbeds before you’re thirty five will increase your chances of developing malignant melanoma by 75%. This is a massive, shocking statistic that I urge you to think of every time the sunbed calls you. There are brilliant fake tans available now and if you really must be brown; fake it!!!!

Here are a few tips for being “Sunsmart”:
Sunburn – Sunburn is a sign that your genetic material (DNA) has been damaged by UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds. Damaged DNA will cause your cells to start multiplying out of control and this can lead to skin cancer. The painful symptoms you suffer whilst sunburnt are your body’s attempts to repair the damage that has been caused. Getting sunburnt one very two years can TRIPLE your risk of the most serious type of skin cancer – melanoma. Peeling occurs when your body tries to get rid of cells that have become so damaged that they have to be destroyed. It is important to remember that you can still burn on cooler days so it is vital to wear SPF as much as possible – especially on your face.

Sunscreens – Cancer Research UK recommend using a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least fifteen and that protects you against UVA rays. It is important to remember that sunscreens expire after about 2-3 years so always check the expiry date! For sunscreen to be effective you needed to do the following things:
*Apply to clean and dry skin
*Apply liberally – around two spoonsful are good if you are covering your heads arms and neck but two tablespoons is good for covering your entire body whilst wearing a swimming costume.
* Reapply regularly, especially after swimming. Sunscreen can easily come off, especially if you are sweating. Even waterproof sunscreen needs to be reapplied throughout the day.
* Use sunscreen along with clothes, a hat and try to sit in shade as often as possible to avoid sunburn.
*Avoid keeping sunscreen in hot places as heat can ruin the protective chemicals.

Covering Up – You are more protected if you cover up more skin. Materials with a close weave offer the best protection as they block out the most UV rays. However, when clothes are wet, they stretch and allow more waves to get through. For example, a wet cotton T-shirt may only offer you HALF the protection of a dry one. Hats are an excellent way of protecting your face, your eyes and your head. A wide brim one is the best kind. Sunglasses are good but they must have a statement to say they offer 100% UV protection or a UV 400 label to offer you proper protection. The wraparound style are the best (just ask my dad, he has some!!)
Shade – UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm. You need to be extra vigilant about protecting yourself against the sun during this time. You can find shade with lots of different things, for example, trees and foliage, umbrellas and canopies.
Working Outdoors – People who frequently work outdoors have about three to four times more UV exposure then people working indoors. Your employers have a legal obligation to protect your health and safey, including your exposure to UV rays and your risk of skin cancer. This is due to the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. To protect yourself, you should try and find some shade to work in between 11 and three during the summer months and try and spend your break times out of the sun. Wearing a protective had and sunglasses where possible should be done and applying sunscreen is a must.
 I hope this information persuades you to give up the sun. We all know having a tan is a confidence boost but faking it really should be your only option. Skin cancer can be very aggressive and is does affect a lot of people. Please do consider becoming “Sunsmart” it could save your life.

To find out more about “Sunsmart” please visit
To read my blog post about skin cancer and the dangers of tanning please click
To follow Justine on Twitter, her username is @js5471

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