Taking care in the sun

Protecting your skin from the sun is important for everyone. But some cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapies, can make your skin more sensitive to damage. It’s important to take extra care – during and after treatment.

Here are some tips for protecting yourself:

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Use sun-cream with a high sun protection factor (SPF).
  • Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres.
  • Try to sit in the shade.
  • Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you’ve had radiotherapy, keep the affected area well covered.

The type and dose of your treatment will affect how sensitive your skin is to the sun. Ask your doctor whether you need to take special care to protect yourself.

Taking care in the sun

During and after treatment, it‘s very important to protect your skin from the sun. Some cancer treatments can make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun. This can be temporary or permanent. How sensitive your skin is to the sun will also depend on the type and dose of your treatment.


If you’ve had chemotherapy

Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin more sensitive. This can sometimes last for several years after treatment. If you’ve had chemotherapy, you can ask your doctor whether you need to take special care to protect your skin.

Some people also find that their skin is sensitive to chemicals such as chlorine, and may need to avoid swimming in pools that have been treated with chlorine.


If you’ve had radiotherapy

The skin in the area that was treated by radiotherapy will stay sensitive for many years and you are at a higher risk of long-term sun damage, including skin cancers. You should take extra care to protect it from the sun.

You don’t need to avoid the sun completely, but it’s good to start with going out into the sun only for very short periods and to use sun cream with a high protection factor. If this causes no problems, you can gradually increase the time you spend in the sun.


If you've had biological therapies

Some cancer treatments, including some biological therapies, can make your skin very sensitive to the sun and your skin may burn more easily than normal. You can still go out in the sun, but you should wear a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (SPF), and cover up with clothing and a hat.


Tips for protecting yourself in the sun

Following the advice below will help ensure that your skin doesn’t burn:

  • Protect your face and neck with a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Always wear sunglasses (with a guaranteed ultraviolet light filter) in strong sunlight.
  • Use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF 30). Follow the instructions on the bottle and reapply as recommended, particularly after swimming.
  • Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres, as these have a closer weave and offer more protection from the sun. As the SPF of different fabrics varies, it’s possible you may need to use some of the other types of protection as well as covering up with clothing.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, usually between 11am and 3pm. Try to sit in the shade, even at other times of the day.
  • If you’ve had radiotherapy, keep the treated area completely covered.
  • Use fake tanning lotions or sprays to give yourself a tan, instead of sunbathing or using a sun-bed.
  • If you have to apply bite/mosquito repellent cream, apply the sunscreen first, followed by the repellent cream.


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Avoiding health problems

Wherever you are in the world, there are ways to try and prevent health problems while you’re away.