The British Association of Dermatologists’ annual Sun Awareness Week provides a timely reminder for the summer ahead. Running from the 11-17 May, Sun Awareness Week 2009 is focussing on early detection of the signs of skin cancer.
Recent figures indicate a disturbing rise in the number of men and women in Scotland being diagnosed with melanoma, with incidence rates having risen 50% in men and 30% in women over the last decade. Skin cancer is the commonest cancer in both men and women, with melanoma now the 8th most common form of cancer in men and the 4th most common in women.
Dr Alex Holme, consultant dermatologist at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital commented: “Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, occurs most commonly in fair-skinned people who tan poorly. Often they have blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, and freckle easily: this accounts for much of the Scottish population! To prevent melanoma, everyone, but particularly children, should practice sun protection between the months of April and September in Scotland, and whenever they are abroad.”
To provide maximum protection from the sun, wear a hat, t-shirt and UV protective sunglasses, seek shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest and use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 which also has high UVA protection. Children and people with pale skin should use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
Early detection of skin cancer is key and Sun Awareness Week is urging people to regularly check their moles for any signs of change which might indicate a melanoma. Remember what to look for using the ABCD-Easy principle; any asymmetry (A) or changes in the border, colour or diameter (B, C and D). If you notice any changes, consult an expert (E). If your GP is concerned about your skin, they will refer you to see a consultant dermatologist (on the GMC register of specialists), the most expert person to diagnose a skin cancer.
“Three quarters of the people who have a melanoma removed will have no further problems. However it is crucial for a melanoma to be removed as early as possible - before it has had time to spread deep into the skin or to other parts of the body. The thinner the melanoma is when it is removed; the better is the survival rate. This is why a doctor should examine anyone with a suspicious mole or blemish as soon as possible” explains Dr Holme.
For more information about Sun Awareness Week and about Skin Cancer, contact the British Association of Dermatologists at www.bad.org.uk.