illustration image: woman by the pool applying sunscreen to her arm

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Take care of your skin in the sun: Use sunscreen

Spring and summer are the time to enjoy the sun. Just remember to take care of your skin in the sun. By using sunscreen and following a few simple tips, you can protect your skin and prevent it from getting burned.

We Norwegians love the sun, with good reason. Sunbathing has several positive health effects by giving us energy, activating our vitamin D production, and contributing to important biological processes in the body.

At the same time, our skin is also damaged by the UV rays in sunlight.

In Norway, we are unfortunately at the top of the world in cases of skin cancer. Sunbathing and the use of a solarium are the main reasons for this.

UV rays from the sun can lead to pigment spots, the skin aging earlier than normal and in the worst case: skin cancer.

Therefore, it is important to take action to take care of the skin in the sun.

Why is excessive tanning harmful?

When you are out in the sun, you are exposed to the UV rays in the sunlight. The two types of UV radiation we want to protect ourselves against are UVA and UVB radiation.

UVA: UVA radiation is the fastest to tan the skin. At the same time, they help the skin age and you can get sunburn. UVA radiation can also contribute to skin cancer.

This type of radiation is found in solariums and they also reach through the cloud cover on cloudy days.

UVB: UVB radiation gives a longer lasting tan in the skin, but is also the main reason for sunburn. This type of radiation can damage cells and cause skin cancer. UVB radiation is strongest in the middle of the day, when the sun is high in the sky.

The positive side of UVB is that this radiation activates the production of vitamin D, which Norwegians benefit from. The important thing is not to overdo the tanning.

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Consequences of excessive sunbathing

Excessive sunbathing can have several consequences that are important to be aware of. If you avoid taking care of your skin in the sun, it can have unpleasant consequences both in the short and long term.


One danger of excessive sunbathing is that you can get sunburned. Sunburn causes dilation of blood vessels in the skin, swelling, itching and burning. The skin becomes red and warm, and it will be painful to touch the sunburned areas. The signs of sunburn usually disappear within a few days.

Even if you do not notice that you get sunburned, it is important not to overdo the tanning and to lubricate yourself often. The reaction to sunburn can appear several hours after the skin has been burned.

Sun eczema (polymorphic light rash)

If your skin is sensitive to sun rays, you will be able to develop sun eczema. It is most common for sun eczema to occur as transient eczema during the spring months. Sun eczema causes itching and blisters on the skin.

You can also get some pimple-like outbreaks, but these go away on their own.

About. 15% of the population in the Scandinavian countries develop sun eczema, and it is most prevalent among young women aged 10-30 years.

It is possible to perform light tests for reaction to UVA and UVA at a skin department. If the skin is very sensitive, sun protection may be necessary.

Remember that if you use products or medicines to treat various skin ailments or acne, the skin can become extra sensitive to sun rays. Therefore, consult a doctor to find out if you can sunbathe while the treatment is taking place, or if you should stay away from the sun.

Treatment of sun eczema

If you have had an outbreak of sun eczema, it is important to stay away from strong sun as much as possible. You should also wear clothing that covers the areas of sun eczema.

In rare cases, systemic treatment with azathioprine may be required.

The use of antihistamines and topical corticosteroids depends on the location and severity. Often groups II and III are sufficient.

In case of severe reactions, Prednisolone 25-30 mg can be used for up to a week.

To avoid breakouts, it is possible to harden the skin before the sun's first strong ultraviolet rays come. This may in rare cases require either UVB or UVA (PUVA).

Pigment stains

Most people want to achieve an even tan when they sunbathe, but there is a risk that you will get a mottled tan. This means that some areas get a darker tan than elsewhere. This is what we call pigment spots.

Pigment spots often occur with excessive sunbathing, and preferably in areas that are particularly exposed to a lot of exposure. The vast majority will therefore get pigment spots on the face and back of the hand.

There is no direct danger associated with pigment spots, but many find them to be unsightly.

Pigment spots can be prevented by taking care of the skin in the sun. You do this by using a sunscreen with a high sun factor, and using sunscreen throughout the year. Even if the sun is not so strong, you may be exposed to UV rays that are harmful to the skin.

Be aware that birth control pills can increase the risk of pigment spots when used at the same time as you sunbathe. Talk to your doctor for more information, and possibly changing contraception. 

Skin cancer

The most serious consequence of excessive sunbathing without sunscreen is skin cancer.

In many cases, we do not know exactly what is the cause of someone getting cancer, but with skin cancer we know that UV radiation plays a big role and is usually the cause behind. Therefore, it is important to take care of the skin in the sun, to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

Early detection is important for skin cancer not to spread, and this is one of many reasons why it is important to be able to get an appointment with a dermatologist quickly.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that grows out of the basal cells in the epidermis.

Typical of a basal cell carcinoma is that it appears as a small skin-colored nodule with a slightly raised edge and a wound or crust in the middle. This variant is seen especially in the facial area. It can also appear as a thickening of the skin or a red, sore spot that grows larger over several years. These tumors are usually seen on the upper body.

Skin biopsies are useful for assessing the thickness of the tumor and the variant of basal cell skin cancer in question.


This is the most common type of skin cancer. It is primarily people in the age group over 40 who get skin cancer in basal cells, and the frequency increases with increasing age.

Men usually have larger diameters on individual lesions compared to women.

The exact cause of the development of basal cell skin cancer is still unclear, but both environmental and hereditary factors have an impact.

Massive exposure to sunlight is probably the most important environmental risk factor. Pronounced sunlight and sunburn, especially in childhood, are believed to be crucial for the development of basal cell carcinoma.

Prolonged immunosuppressive therapy is also a significant risk factor. Organ transplant patients therefore have a marked increase in frequency, and this group of patients has more frequent check-ups than others at the dermatologist.

The risk of subsequent development of several basal cell skin cancer elements located elsewhere in the body increases significantly for all patient groups once one has been diagnosed. Studies have shown that 40-50% of patients with a newly diagnosed area of ​​basal cell skin cancer will develop at least one new one within 5 years.

Basal cell skin cancer is mainly found in the most exposed areas to sunlight and especially the head and neck region, but fortunately grows very slowly. The spread (metastasis) of this skin tumor is almost never seen, but treatment is recommended anyway.

Quality of life studies have shown that patients are affected by having been diagnosed with this form of skin cancer.

Treatment of basal cell carcinoma

There are many different treatment options for basal cell carcinomas, including surgery, scraping and burning, freezing, photodynamic therapy (PDT), and topical treatments. For the rare variants, X-ray treatment, vismodegib and combination treatments can be used.

The wide range of treatments enables individualized treatment based on the type of basal cell skin cancer and clinical characteristics as well as the patient's wishes.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of malignant tumor. It develops from normal squamous cell carcinoma of the skin or mucous membranes. It can also develop in abnormally occurring squamous epithelium, this can occur, for example, in the sinuses, lungs and larynx.

This is a serious form of cancer if left untreated as it often spreads to lymph nodes and other tissues and organs. If the tumor is detected early and treated, the prognosis is good.

This type of cancer can spread quickly or slowly, depending on how similar the cancer cells in the tumor are to normal squamous cells.

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Malignant melanoma (mole cancer)

Malignant melanoma is another common type of skin cancer. The cancer grows out of cells that produce the dark dye melanin in the skin and moles. Because malignant melanoma often grows out of moles, this type of cancer is also called mole cancer.

These are the most common cancers among young adults, especially women, and the cancer that increases most frequently by approx. 3-5% increase per. year.

A WHO expert group concludes that there is a direct link between the use of solariums and mole cancer. Sunburn in childhood and adolescence seems to be more important than sunburn later in life.

Mole cancer does not necessarily develop in places on the body with maximum sunlight.

Malignant melanoma usually occurs in the skin, but can also occur in the mucous membranes, eyes and lymph nodes. Tumors that spread will usually spread first to nearby lymphatic stations, on to the skin or other organs.

The risk of the tumor spreading and becoming dangerous depends on the vertical thickness of the primary tumor when it is detected.

This type of cancer affects many young people. In women it most often occurs on the arms and legs and in men most often on the upper body.

If the melanoma is detected early, the prognosis is very good.

How to examine moles

To detect malignant melanoma early, you should be aware of moles or new spots such as:

  • changes shape or color (black)
  • growing
  • itches
  • bleeds or forms sores
  • is asymmetrical in shape (color and outline of one half can not be reflected in the other)
  • has an uneven color (often three or more possible colors: black, dark brown, light brown, red, white, orange, pink or gray-blue)
  • is larger than 6 mm in diameter
  • has unclear transition to normal skin

Asymmetry and change from previous condition are the best indicators of atypical cells and should be investigated further.

Malignant melanoma is an aggressive tumor that grows in visible areas, and early-stage surgical removal may be the only treatment required to cure this potentially life-threatening condition.

It is therefore important to perform surgical removal as soon as possible without delay if there is a reasonable suspicion of mole cancer.

Advice for taking care of your skin in the sun

Although there are some risks we should be aware of when we are out and enjoying the sun, we can avoid them by following these simple tips:

Do not overdo the tanning

Although the sun is good for the production of vitamin D, we do not need to overdo the tanning. Cancer researcher Asta Juzeniene has stated that 10-20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen is enough to get enough vitamin D.. If you want to sunbathe beyond this, it's time to lubricate yourself.

It is also important to take breaks from the sun. The sun is at its strongest in the middle of the day, ie between kl. 12 and at 15. As mentioned, it is also when the UVB radiation is strongest, which increases the risk of getting sunburned.

Avoid getting sunburned

To avoid getting burned, it is important to use a good sunscreen with a high sun factor. You should use at least factor 15 in Norway, and at least factor 30 abroad. With factor 15 you get 93% protection against UV radiation, and with factor 30 you get 97% protection.

To get the best protection, you need to lubricate often and a lot. Many people use too little sunscreen when they lubricate themselves, and then they do not achieve as high protection as the sun factor should provide. You should lubricate yourself at least every two hours, more often if you bathe or sweat a lot.

Before lubricating, you should also check the durability of the sunscreen. Pay special attention to whether the sunscreen has changed its scent or appearance. If you have it, you should buy new sunscreen.

Also remember that the lighter you are in the skin, the easier you will be burned. Light skin therefore needs a stronger sun factor.

For best effect, apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun.

Cover yourself

In addition to using sunscreen, you can also protect yourself from radiation from the sun by covering yourself. Headgear, sunglasses and protective clothing are important to take care of the skin in the sun.

Although the sun factor is good, it is most effective to wear clothes and headgear to protect the skin. If you are going to be out in the sun for a long time, it is therefore important to choose clothing that provides good protection and that does not get too hot.

Linen clothes are especially good for this purpose as they are often light and airy to wear and linen is a natural material that breathes well.

Avoid solarium

Since we in Norway do not have as much sun all year round, many Norwegians use a solarium. Since this increases the total sun exposure, this entails an increased risk of developing cancer.

En Australian study shows that people who have used a solarium during their lifetime have a 41% increased risk of developing mole cancer before the age of 39. The risk is greatest for those who have used a solarium the most.

The research in this study also shows that young people are particularly exposed to this increased risk. Compared to people who have never used a solarium, people who use a solarium more than 10 times at a young age have a 6 times higher risk of developing melanoma before the age of 30.

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Treatment if you get sunburned

Although sunburn usually goes away on its own after a few days, you can also do some things to relieve the symptoms.

In case of severe itching, antihistamines can be used. Creams that contain adrenal cortex hormones (corticosteroids) can be applied to the sunburned areas. Usually it will be enough to use creams with low steroid strength, ie group I-II (of IV). These are used for a few days.

If you are taking photosensitizing medications, you should take a break from them if you can not avoid continuing to be in sunlight.

Cooling creams and possibly wet wipes can relieve the symptoms.

Enjoy the summer, but take care of your skin in the sun

As mentioned, tanning also has positive health effects. Therefore, you should enjoy the heat, but take your precautions to take care of your skin in the sun.

The most important thing is to use sunscreen with a high enough sun factor and to use enough cream. In addition, you should take breaks from sunbathing.

Although it will take a little longer, you will achieve tan even when using sunscreen. In fact, slow tanning can also help you get a smoother and more lasting tan.

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