According to Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign, the deadliest form of skin cancer (melanoma) is now the most common cancer amongst women in their 20s, with twice as many cases in this age group than breast cancer. With many people wanting the ‘sun-kissed’ look this summer, over-exposure in the sun and the misuse of sunbeds are commonly reported in the UK. Every year, Spire Tunbridge Wells Hospital’s lead consultant, Mr Paul Banwell, sees an increase in people visiting the hospital over the summer months who are concerned about changes in their skin following sun exposure and is backing the hospital’s campaign to help everyone stay safe in the sun.
There are two main types of skin cancer: non-melanoma and melanoma. Non-melanoma is the most common and easily treated skin cancer and is caused by long-term exposure of the skin to sunlight. Melanoma affected over 9,500 people in 2005 and is the most serious form of skin cancer as it can spread to other tissues and organs. It is easy to check your skin for signs of any abnormalities, which may be treatable if caught early. If left however, they may develop into serious cancers.
Skin cancer can affect any type of skin and there are several symptoms. A change in the normal appearance of the skin should be monitored and if it doesn’t clear up quickly, requires a visit to the GP. Particular attention should be paid to moles that change in shape, size or colour. Also, broken or ulcerated skin that has appeared for no obvious reason and doesn’t heal quickly, or sore spots that continue to hurt, itch or bleed for a long period of time should be referred to a GP.
Paul Banwell, Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgeon, at Spire Tunbridge Wells Hospital comments: “Skin cancer can evolve on or near to other benign skin abnormalities or growths, including moles. When you over-expose these sensitive areas in strong sunlight, the ultraviolet (UV) radiation damages the skin cell’s DNA, which causes sunburn. Severe instances may cause pain and blistering. However, long-term exposure to the sun is the main risk factor for any type of skin cancer. Getting a painful sun burn just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer, a frightening thought. So, prevention is the key to ensuring skin stays safe in the sun.”
Spire Tunbridge Wells Hospital recommends the following for staying safe in the sun:
Make sure you never burn in the sun.
Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm. Find shade under umbrellas, trees or other shelters.
Always cover up, sunscreen alone is not enough. Wear T-shirts, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Young skin is particularly at risk – sunburn in under 15 year-olds is a major risk for skin cancer.
Apply sunscreen when travelling in a car, on a bus or train as sun will still have an effect on your skin through the windows.
Babies should be kept out of the sun completely, while older children should be protected with both sunscreen and clothing.
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