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The sun has some beneficial virtues for our body !

- It brings us a feeling of wellbeing thanks to the light and to the heat due to the infra-reds.
- It is a regulator of our internal clock: the light, perceived by the retina, causes on the level of the brain the secretion of an hormone, the melatonine, which optimizes the periods of waking and sleeping.
- It allows the synthesis of the vitamin D, necessary to the fixing of calcium on the bones, but 15 to 30 minutes of daily exposure to the sun are enough. In winter our body draws on our reserves.

But why is it absolutely necessary to be protected from the sun?
The human body needs to be protected from UV rays.

- Exposure to the sun also has negative health effects because UV rays are primarily responsible for premature ageing of the skin and cutaneous cancers.
- The sun causes sunstroke (burns), premature ageing, allergies and in the most serious cases cancers (melanomas and carcinomas).
- Chronic exposure to the sun - even without sunstroke - can have the same effect.
- UV rays can also cause harmful lesions on the eyes.
- The sun can also weaken immunizing defences and instigate certain visceral cancers.
- And so, the dangers caused by the sun are ultraviolet rays (UV), which can be emitted by natural sources (the sun) or artificial ones (sunbeds).
- The UV rays are completely invisible to the eye and don’t give off any heat.

We are exposed to 3 types of UV rays:
- UVB: 90% are absorbed by the ozone layer and represent 5% of the solar UV on the surface of the earth. Short-term solar radiation causes long-term risks of skin cancers and cataracts.
- UVA: are only slightly filtered by the atmosphere. Their action is slow, cumulative, the effect of which appears in the long-term. They penetrate more deeply into the skin and contribute to the appearance of certain cancers, the early ageing of the skin and the cataracts.
- UVC: are very dangerous but almost entirely blocked by the atmosphere, except where there are holes in the ozone layer (pollution).

The UV index shows the intensity of solar UV radiation at specific times and places.
The health risk it represents is expressed from 1 to 11+ (International Index UV).

The highest UV index is the most dangerous and the best protection is needed.
It varies from one country to another (see table of UV indices throughout the world).

To find out the UV index in a specific place and time, consult the following site http://www.soleil.info/uv-meteo/previsions-uv/, or use the application SOLEILRISK, available for smartphones.


Who needs to be protected from the sun?

Everyone. However, the risk isn’t the same for everyone.
Everyone is born with sun resistance, but for people with lighter skin, sun resistance is reduced. Sun resistance can’t be renewed and decreases progressively with exposure to the sun.
- Children are more vulnerable than adults.
- Infants must be protected as a priority and without fail.
People having had cancer and chemotherapy are much more at risk.

Eyes, hair and skin colour help define the various skin types in relation to their reaction to the sun.
They are known as phototypes.

Knowing your skin type is important as it helps you identify your sun resistance capacity. 

During bronzing, the skin increases its production of protective pigments: melanin, manufactured by our skin cells (the melanocytes).
Bronzing is a natural barrier produced by the skin to protect itself from ultraviolet rays but it’s superficial. It filters only one part of the harmful rays.
Tanned skin reduces the risk of sunstroke but it doesn’t protect the skin from cutaneous ageing and therefore does very little to reduce the risk of cancer.
The melanin produced by the sun’s energy uses two types of pigments: black-brown pigments that aid tanning and red pigments that aid the skin’s ability to redden.

There are 6 different phototypes:
- 0 = Albinos = free of melanin
- 1 = Redhead = sunstroke without tanning
- 2 = Fair with clear eyes = sunstroke, then light tan
- 3 = Chestnut brown = sunstroke, then tan
- 4 = Brown = tan without sunstroke
- 5 = Mediterranean, metis = idem
- 6 = Black =idem

When are you exposed to UV rays?
- On holiday (sea, mountains, countryside).
- Outdoor sports (all year).
- Outdoor gardening/tinkering
- Outdoor walking
- The amount of sunlight radiation we’re exposed to depends on where we live and on the season of the year.
- The solar protection used must be adapted to suit each situation, be it on the beach, in the snow, in the countryside or even under the clouds!
- The artificial UV rays in solariums and UV lamps (dangerous).
- At work:
Some professions, such as construction workers (roofers, masons), public road workers, sailors, farmers and skiing instructors etc., are particularly prone to being exposed to the sun as they are required to work outside.
- Even welders are at risk; being exposed to certain chemicals increases the risk.  

What are the effects of UV on the skin? 
- Skin ageing and skin cancer 

One out of three cancers is skin cancer, but the disease can be avoided by taking simple steps to protect our skin from UV radiation.
Sunstroke isn’t the only danger. It’s also the cumulative exposure to UV sunlight throughout our lives.
Every time your unprotected skin is exposed to UV sunlight the condition of your skin worsens (and your sun resistance decreases).
Ensure that you check your skin regularly.

What do skin cancers look like?
- Solar keratoses are scabs; they are often multiple lesions that appear on exposed skin (face and hands). They are potentially precancerous but easy to cure.
- Carcinomas are the most frequent type of skin cancer, and aren’t life- threatening if treated early.
The basal cell carcinomas can be distinguished from the more aggressive epidermoid carcinomas. They usually look like lesions in relief; elevated growths or scabs, or like chronic ulcerations (chronic open sores).
Melanomas, by far the most serious, can be life threatening and must be diagnosed as soon as possible for the maximum chance of a cure.

How to differentiate between a mole and a melanoma?
- Regularly self examine all areas of your skin (including your scalp, the soles of your feet, between your toes and your genitals).
- Seek out the « Ugly Duckling », i.e. the naevus (mole) that looks different from the others.
- Be vigilant of any changes: a new brown or reddish spot; a mole that quickly changes its form, size, colour or thickness is an indication.

- In case of a history of melanoma in your family, you must be more careful and vigilant.
- Trust the criteria outlined in ABCDE guidelines:
(the skin cancer foundation document)

The presence of one or more of these signs warrants consulting a doctor but doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a melanoma.

How to protect yourself from the sun?

- Some facts to know:
Sunstroke isn’t the only danger. It’s also the cumulative exposure to UV sunlight throughout your life.
Every time your unprotected skin is exposed to UV sunlight the condition of your skin worsens (and your sun resistance decreases).
Be aware of the sun reflecting on the water, the snow and the ground and through overcast skies.
On water the reflection of the sun increases the intensity of the rays. And UV rays can penetrate water. Moreover, the freshness of the water on your skin can prolong the time you spend in the sun.

- Means of protection:
. Anti-UV clothing is undoubtedly the most effective protection and is particularly suitable and practical for children to wear on the beach or at the poolside.
Of course, they are also recommended and suitable for adults who undertake outside activities, such as sport, relaxation and leisure time.
People with a particular risk, such as those having had a melanoma, chemotherapy or who are in the process of having immune-modifying treatment (e.g. transplants) must be doubly protected.
Think of protecting your scalp, even in town. This is especially important for people with hair loss.
Take note of the quality standards for anti UV clothing; they must provide sun protection even when wet.
The fabrics must be tested and certified by specialised laboratories.

. Sun protection products: creams, suntan lotion, sprays, sticks.
Adapt the index of protection to the situation (zone to be protected, place, hour of the day).
Choose the highest indices on the premise that total screening from the sun isn’t possible.
The maximum index is 50+.

. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

- Make sure you know that:
. It’s important to avoid sun exposures between midday and 4 o’clock.
. It’s important to avoid certain drugs, deodorants and perfumes that may sensitise the skin to the sun (photosensitisation) and cause serious allergies and burns.
The risk of sun exposure varies according to country, latitude and the activities undertaken.
. Avoid artificial UVs: they don’t help prepare the skin for sun exposure; they increase the risk of cancer instead.
Brazil and Australia have banned indoor tanning altogether.
Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom have banned indoor tanning for people under the age of 18.