The Importance of being Sun Aware

Posted June 19, 2016

With summer fast approaching, we all hope that the sun will shine here in the UK and, if not, many of us will travel abroad seeking our dose of vitamin D.

Safety in the sun is ever more relevant as there has been a steady increase in cases of skin cancer since the 1970’s, and this does not show any signs of slowing down.

Skin cancer is currently the fifth most common cancer in Britain, and the second most common cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 34. Each year approximately 2,100 Britons die from the disease.

However, by following simple common sense guidance and maintaining an awareness of what to look out for on your skin, you can help to protect yourself.

Signs to be aware of

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from the cells in our skin that give us a suntan. If caught at an early stage it has a good prognosis. It presents as either a change in a long standing mole or a new mole. A useful aid for checking moles is the ABCDE method which stands for:

A – Asymmetry
B – Border Irregularity
C – Colour variation and/or change
D – Diameter more than 6 mm (pencil eraser size) and/or change in diameter
E – Evolving – changing lesions

Moles which have changed at all in size, shape or colour should be checked immediately by your GP or a dermatologist.

Less serious changes include red, scaling or rough areas on the skin. This can represent badly sun damaged skin which, if left, can become more serious. It is best to seek early assessment as often it can be treated with simple creams prescribed by your doctor or a skin specialist.

The most common skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma but thankfully it is the least serious. It tends to present as a shiny, pearly edged area that often goes through a cycle of bleeding, crusting and healing. They grow very slowly and there are many effective forms of treatment so again it is better to visit your GP as early as possible.

Overall, the chances of something serious are low and should not prevent you from enjoying the sun safely. Good advice is to use sun cream of at least SPF 15 reapplied regularly, wear a long sleeved shirt and broad brimmed hat and be especially careful between the hours of 11am to 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.

Mr Gerard Lambe is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at The Christie Clinic. For more information or to book an appointment please call 0161 918 7296.