Safer sunbathing thanks to apps that tell you when it’s time to reapply your sunscreen

May 2020 Healthy Living Willem van Altena

With summer just around the corner, and corona-regulations slowly becoming more relaxed, many of us will want to spend more time out in the open, enjoying the weather and the sunlight. It’s easy to forget the dangers of too much sunlight. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Belgium, but it also happens to be a type of cancer against which it is relatively easy to find protection. The Dutch cancer society KWF has launched a handy app, that can also be used by Flemish speakers: KWF Zonadvies.

Holiday

The app is available for free download and offers tips as well as information on the sun’s strength based on location and time, so it also works on holiday. Users can find out what their skin type is by answering a questionnaire and receive tailor-made recommendations on how to enjoy the sun safely.

Very handy is a ‘reapplication timer’ that warns you when you need a new dab of sunscreen. Using sunscreen with a higher solar protection factor (SPF) enables people to spend longer in the sun. But KWF warns that there is no sunscreen strong enough to last all day, and people also need to be aware that sweating or swimming reduces the protective abilities of the cream (even so-called waterproof ones).

Download for free

The KWF Zonadvies app can be downloaded for free on Apple en Android.

In French

For Francophone users, the app PeauCible (developed by pharma company Roche) offers the same services as the KWF Zonadvies app: localized information on solar strength, as well as a timer that gives off a warning when it’s time to reapply that sun screen. Download for free for Apple and Android.

Three tips for safe sunbathing

  • A cheap sunscreen works just as well as an expensive one. The price difference is made up by fragrance, packaging and marketing, but essentially all sunscreens work the same. Pay attention to the sun protection factor (SPF): the higher the number, the longer you can stay in the sun without reapplying. And contrary to popular belief, you will still get a nice tan even if you’re using SPF 50.
  • There is no such thing as an all-day sunscreen, so reapply regularly and liberally. The efficacy of you sunscreen depends on your skin type as well as the sun strength, but also on your activities. If you’re playing sports, you sweat more and that washes off the sunscreen. So does swimming, even when you use a waterproof sunscreen. KWF also urges people to apply sunscreen generously, only then does it provide the right amount of protection.
  • Still have a few squeezes of sunscreen left over from last year? Bin it and buy new one. Sunscreen, like most cosmetics, has a limited usability, and after opening it gradually loses its protective power. Also: store your sunscreen in the correct manner: away from heat and light. And never leave it lying in the sun or a hot car.

Skin cancer in Belgium

The most recent data from the Belgian cancer registry states that the number of cancer diagnoses has more than tripled between 2004 and 2016. Volgens Stichting Kankerregister is het aantal gevallen van huidkanker in België tussen 2004 en 2016 toegenomen met 342 %. Skin cancer is by far the most prevalent form of cancer in Belgium, and the number of new patients has been showing a steady incline for years. This is caused by two things: first of all, people are more aware of the danger of skin cancer and have suspicious moles and such checked out more often. But secondly, skin cancer is also on the rise because of rising temperatures and people spending more time outside as a result. In Belgium, every year over 39,000 new skin cancer patients are diagnosed, and almost 3,100 of them have melanoma, by far the most dangerous, and sometimes lethal type of skin cancer.

More information

The website www.kanker.be contains a special section devoted to skin cancer.

The website Euromelanoma also provides a wealth of information on skin cancer, and specifically melanoma.

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