10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment

Article on Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment - Photograph of Woman Relaxing in the Shade

It seems like summer is finally here to stay! We’re enjoying the longer days and warm, sunny weather. If you’re in the middle of chemo or radiation, your summer plans might look a little different this year.

Even if you’re sneaking in a patio nap instead of spending a day on the beach, getting outside is a great way to boost your mood. The most important thing is to make sure that you manage your sun exposure during your cancer treatment. 

Here’s how sun exposure affects the body during cancer treatment: 

Chemotherapy & Immunotherapy

Radiation

Surgery

Does this treatment make the skin sensitive to the sun?

Yes; most chemotherapies and immunotherapies make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Yes; radiation is known to make the body more sensitive to sunlight.

Yes; scars from surgery are very sensitive to sunlight. The rest of your skin should be unaffected.
Where will my skin be sensitive to the sun?

All over your body. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy can make the skin much more sensitive to the sun, and more likely to burn.

On the parts of the body that were exposed to the radiation treatment. Treated parts of the body are very likely to burn if exposed to direct sunlight.

Your scars will be very sensitive to sunlight. Sun exposure can change the pigmentation of your scars and can slow down the skin’s healing process.

How long will my skin be sensitive for?

Up to 2 months post-treatment 1+ years after treatment has ended. Unlike chemo, radiation can cause lasting skin sensitivity.

At least 1 month post-surgery, and up to 1 year beyond that.

Should I avoid sun exposure during cancer treatment?

It’s true that the vast majority of cancer treatments cause skin sensitivity. Because of this, direct sun exposure during chemotherapy and radiation is not advisable. This doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the sun completely, but you will need to take special precautions to avoid becoming burnt and dehydrated.

We’ve made a little list of strategies to help you stay cool and sun safe all summer long! 

10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment:

1. Avoid the sun during peak hours

The sun’s rays are strongest from 10am to 3pm. If you can, try to avoid being in direct sunlight during the middle of the day. Instead, schedule your outdoor time for mornings or evenings. If you have to be outside during the “peak period” of sun exposure, make sure you choose a shady spot to relax in.

2. Stay covered up

One of the best ways to protect your skin from sun exposure is to cover up in UV-resistant clothing. Regular clothing can work, too, but keep in mind that not all shirts and beach kaftans are created equal. If they’re too thin, or partially see-through, they won’t block the sun’s rays well enough to protect you.

3. Wear a fun summer hat

A big, wide-brimmed hat is a great way to keep your head, neck and shoulders safe from the sun. If you’re experiencing hair loss, try wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat with a light headscarf underneath. The cotton will protect your scalp from the itchy straw, and you can tie a lovely tail out the back for some added colour.

sun exposure cancer SPF sunbathing

4. Apply sunscreen

You should apply sunscreen regularly if you know you’re going to be out in the sun. Some people like to apply it first thing in the morning so that they’re prepared right from the start. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30. Plan to reapply your sunscreen regularly – especially after swimming or sweating. Speak with your doctor about suitable sunscreen brands. If you’ve had radiotherapy or have very sensitive skin from cancer treatment, your doctor will be able to help you find a sunscreen that’s good for sensitive skin.

Badger Organic Broad Spectrum Active Sunscreen SPF 30

5. Sit in the shade

If you can sit in the shade, you’ll be cooler and less likely to burn. If there’s no shade available where you’ll be going, consider bringing a portable sun umbrella with you, or setting up a tent or sun cover. You’ll be more comfortable and safe from the sun.

6. Stay hydrated

Not only can cancer treatment make the skin sensitive, it can also make you prone to fatigue. Staying hydrated will help to keep you alert and awake in hot weather. Drink lots of liquids, and try eating fresh fruit to keep your fluid levels up. It will also help to keep you cool. 

7. Try a face spritz

A gentle scalp or face spritz can help to cool down your body and moisturise your skin. You can try making your own at home, or purchase the super-hydrating Defiant Beauty Cool and Refresh Spritz. Here’s an insider tip: keep your spritz in the fridge for extra-cool relief!

8. Wear light, cool clothing

Linen, bamboo and cotton fabrics breathe well and will help to wick away sweat from your body. Choose clothes made from these fabrics, and stick to light colours to stay as cool as possible. Time to break out the beach shirts and sundresses!

9. Take a quick dip

A cool shower or quick dip in the pool (if your treatment permits it) will help to lower your body temperature and provide some relief from the heat. If the pool water has chlorine in it, be sure to rinse off after your swim. This will prevent the chlorine from making your skin itchy or dry.  Before using a swimming pool, check with your doctor that it’s safe for you to do so.

10. Sleep with a cold pillow

We all know how lovely a cold pillow can feel – especially on a very warm evening. The GelO Cool Pillow Mat can help you to keep your pillow cool all night long. Just chill in the refrigerator and place on your pillow for lasting comfort.

Although you might be more sensitive to the sun than you were before your treatment, you can still enjoy the beautiful summer weather. All it takes is a little bit of preparation. 

 

Tips to beat the heat when you have cancer

 

When you’re having treatment for cancer you might suffer from hot flushes and increased sweating. So when the sun is shining and the weather heats up it can become even trickier to stay cool and comfortable. That’s why we’ve asked our community to share their tips and ideas on what’s helped them beat the heat and stay comfortable during the hotter months.

Top tips for coping in the heat

  • When the weather is hotter your body will respond by sweating more to help cool you down. If you’re sweating profusely it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing so try wearing lightweight clothes which absorb moisture such as cotton or bamboo, lighter colours are better as they don’t show up sweat patches as easily
  • The same goes for your bedlinen too, natural lightweight fibres will help absorb moisture better than man-made materials and don’t make you feel cold when they get wet
  • If you’re struggling to sleep because you’re too hot at night try using a cooling pillow to help get you cool and comfortable for a good night’s sleep

  • If you’ve lost your hair and normally wear a wig try taking breaks and use a cotton hat instead. Natural wigs trap a lot of heat and don’t allow your scalp to breath which is really important when the weather is hot. If you don’t want to go wig-free then you can wear a synthetic wig instead as their mesh construction allows your scalp to breath more than natural wigs
  • If you’ve had radiotherapy you’re skin might find it particularly difficult to cope with the heat, a cooling pad can help soothe affected areas and cool down your skin
  • Drink plenty of fluids, aim for at least 3L a day. Ideally these shouldn’t be caffeinated or alcoholic drinks as these dilate blood vessels in the skin and makes you sweat more

  • Cool down and feel refreshed with a face and body spritzer, you can pop one in your handbag and take it with you for a quick cool down when you’re out and about too.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods or heavy meals late at night as these will make you sweat more.
  • If you’re sweating a lot at night try sleeping with the windows open or using a free-standing fan to keep your room cool.
  • Try making homemade ice-lollies. Use a blender to whizz up fruits and pop it in the freezer for delicious, healthy & cooling lollies. You can even add milk and yoghurt for a more creamy treat.    

  • Stay safe in the sun by using plenty of sunscreen! Use a minimum of SPF 30 and look for natural or organic sunscreens that will be kinder if your skin is sensitive from chemo and radiotherapy
  • Have a cold shower before you go to bed to help cool you down and get to sleep without feeling hot and sticky!

The Live Better With community recommends:

⧫  Gel’O Cool Pillow Mat:  this mat can be refrigerated and placed under your pillow case to keep you cool throughout the night. Find here ->

  Bamboo Bedding:  bamboo is a natural fibre that is highly absorbant and moisture-wicking, perfect if you are suffering from night sweats. Find here ->

⧫  Free Standing Fan:  use this portable fan to keep your room cool & air circulating through the day and night. Find here ->

⧫  Indoor cotton hat:  a stylish, comfortable & cooling alternative to wearing a wig. Find here ->

⧫  Defiant Beauty Cool and Refresh spritz for face and body:  100% organic & natural this cooling facial spritz is scented with orange blossom and will keep you refreshed through the day. Find here ->

⧫  Badger Organic Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30:  this 100% natural & 94% organic sunscreen is ideal for sensitive skin and uses zinc oxide as the active ingredient to protect against UV rays. Find here ->

⧫  Lindi Skin Cooler Pad:  made with water and aloe vera, this reusable pad provides instant cooling and hydration for sun burnt skin. Find here ->

 

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5 Replies to “10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment”

  1. It helped a lot when you mentioned how you should take the time to get UV resistant clothes when dealing with skin cancer. I understand that taking the time to do some research and compare several treatments can help you find the best one for your case. A friend of mine was talking about how he needed to see a professional that could help him deal with his skin cancer, so I’m glad I found your page.

  2. These are some great tips; after all, you do want to minimize sun exposure during cancer treatment. I particularly like the article’s suggestion about staying hydrated. Cancer treatments take a lot out of you so it is just a good idea to stay hydrated as well.

  3. Dip in the pool? I have been told to avoid swimming pools at all costs because of the risk of infection.

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