Spring is finally here! It's that lovely time of year when we can enjoy outdoor sports, tramping, gardening, surfing and fishing as the days start to lengthen.

However, the ultraviolet index is also rising again, and even on cloudy days there is a significant risk of sunburn. Don't get caught out! Make it a habit to apply sunscreen before leaving the house every day. It is also wise to avoid sun exposure from 10am to 2pm when the UV index is at its highest.

SPF30+ sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure, and re-applied every 2 hours as it is wears off during outdoor activities. Be especially careful to re-apply sunscreen on young children as their skin is even more prone to sunburn. Most fabric provides better protection than sunscreen so cover up with long sleeves and a hat.

Cumulative sun exposure over time, even without significant burning, increases the risk of skin cancer. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. The commonest types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and malignant melanoma. SCC and melanoma have the potential to spread internally and metastasize, whilst BCCs are locally invasive.

Stay vigilant and if you notice any changing lesions on your skin, please have them checked by a medical professional. Early diagnosis and treatment leads to better cure rates! For further information contact the Skin Centre on 0800 SkinCentre (754 623) orinfo@skincentre.com.

By Dr Suyin Ong BSc Hons MBBChir MSc MRCP (UK)