26 July 2017
Though Cambridgeshire may not be the sunniest place in the UK, doctors are witnessing an increase in the number of patients who unknowingly have skin cancer.
Consultant dermatologist at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital, Dr Nevianna Bordet explains
“Six out of ten people suffer with a skin condition at some stage in their life and those struggling to find a remedy are often referred to a dermatologist. In the last year I’ve had several patients who have come with one condition and while examining their skin I have spotted a melanoma. Skin cancer is on the increase and people need to be more aware and have their skin checked. This can be done by a GP or by an expert consultant dermatologist and always follow the sun awareness guide, known as the A B C D E guide.
“My patient, Mr Burpitt’s case is not unusual and highlights the trend I’m witnessing.”
Mr Ken Burpitt explains “I was on holiday last year when members of my family told me I should get a blackish area on my back checked. I’m fair skinned with blue, grey eyes and spent a lot of my early working life in the Middle East and Africa working for various oil companies. Back then we didn’t wear any sun cream, we weren’t covered up with hats or shirts and we were simply not aware of the risks, no one was. Of course I didn’t go and get it checked, but later in the year I had a very itchy rash and it spread, causing me a huge amount of discomfort and a lot of distress. I got to the stage where I didn’t really want to go out so I went to see my GP, but learnt that there would be a six month wait for an appointment to see a consultant dermatologist in the NHS. Well….I didn’t feel I could wait that long so I booked in directly with the Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital for an appointment with Dr Bordet and she saw me within a week – thank goodness I did!
“In a nutshell, that rash saved my life. Though I went to see her about the rash, when she checked me over head to toe she immediately said she was more concerned by the black mark on my back. She was right, the tests revealed I had melanoma on my shoulder. The good news is it was caught very early and removed and now I get checked every three months for the next five years. The rash itself was treated with steroid cream - six weeks later I was nearly rid of it.”
Everyone should be aware of changes with their skin. If in doubt, get it checked out and if your GP is concerned, or isn’t sure, ask to be referred to a consultant dermatologist. Remember the A to E of dermatology.
Asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape
Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches
Colour – this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
Diameter – any change in diameter is worrying. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor
Evolution and elevation – if a mole is changing or becoming more raised it needs to be examined by an expert. If in doubt, get it checked out.
Lastly, Dr Bordet suggests the following “My best advice – keep your shirt on and long sleeves please. High factor sun creams are all well and good but there are times when you really need to cover up – and that means putting a layer of clothing between you and the sunshine.
“There are health benefits to sun exposure, so it is wrong to tell people not to go in the sun at all or to cover up completely all the time. We are only just beginning to understand the effects of vitamin D deficiency, its links to bone health and its possible protective role against cancer. I recommend that people expose themselves to 10 – 15 minutes of sunshine, 3 times per week.
“I prefer sun creams with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or above. However, SPF relates to UVB, it tells you nothing about UVA - you need protection for both as they are both linked to cancer. UVA protection will help you avoid those wrinkles and is shown by a star rating. You should look for 4 – 5 stars.”
Dr Nevianna Bordet, is a Consultant Dermatologist at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital in Cambridge. To find out more information about the dermatology treatments we offer click here.