Beat the Burn this Summer: An MMSA Campaign
Beat the Burn is a campaign coordinated by members of the Malta Medical Students Association every summer, which aims at raising awareness about the dangers of excessive sun exposure and ways in which we can combat the harmful effects of UV rays.
Such harmful effects include severe sunburns, blisters, premature aging and even skin cancer. On the other hand, exposure to an adequate amount of UV rays provides various advantages such as boosting the body’s Vitamin D supply, uplifts one’s mood and helps to reduce stress.
UV emissions from the sun are of 3 types: UV A, UV B, UV C. UV C has shortest wavelength and is therefore not considered a risk factor for skin cancer. UV A and UV B both cause harmful effects on our skin such as melanomas and skin cancers.
UV B damages skin cells and causes DNA mutations which may eventually result in melanomas and skin cancers. UV A has the longest wavelength of the three, causing deeper skin penetration. It is associated with premature ageing and wrinkling. UV A is also associated with premature skin aging and wrinkles.
Take home message: purchase a sunblock that provides protection against both UV A and UV B rays. Check the information printed on the bottle itself.
The effect of sunlight in Malta and Melanomas
Maltese locals are at a higher risk of skin cancer due to elevated UV index levels for several months of the year, especially during the summer months.
What is a melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer which brings with it a high risk of death. Risk factors include sun exposure, fair skin, atypical moles on the skin and a family history of melanoma. In Malta, a rise in invasive malignant melanoma has been observed, a trend which has also been noted amongst the white populations worldwide.
How can we protect ourselves from the sun?
Drink water frequently, especially during hot and humid weather since we lose a lot of our body fluids through sweat.
Some clothing is certified to offer protection against UV.
Hats protect the face and scalp whilst sunglasses with UV protection protect the eyes.
Apply sunscreen more than once and make sure to cover areas which cannot be reached easily independently.
Sunscreens are assigned an SPF (Sunscreen Protection Factor) which shows how well it blocks the UV rays. Higher numbers mean more protection.
As a part of this year’s Beat the Burn campaign, MMSA is setting up outreach events in various beaches around the island in collaboration with the Malta Tourism Authority and Bioderma in order to educate the public and carry out free health checks.
They will also be outreaching at summer schools to educate children on this important public health campaign.
This article was written by Pearl Vassallo and Clara Ann Formosa.