Skin cancer – cutting your risk

As a Consultant Dermatologist and specialist Dermatological Surgeon, Dr Conal Perrett treats many cases of skin cancer each year. Most are the common basal cell carcinomas, which grow slowly and can be treated successfully. Other types of skin cancer can, however, be more aggressive.

Dr Perrett supports Sun Awareness Week 5-11 May 2014, an event set up by The British Association of Dermatologists, to raise awareness of the damaging effect of too much Sun on the skin.

“Last month, data published by Cancer Research UK showed that the number of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer has gone up worryingly. Before it was usual for people to have holidays in the sun, in the 1960s, around 1800 cases were seen in the UK each year. Now its more than 13,000 in any one year and 2,000 people die.”

Risk factors for skin cancer

More exposure to the sun is not the only cause of the increase – it’s also connected with the use of sunbeds and the ‘tanned’ look that became popular in the 1970s and 1980s and still is sought after by many people.

“My advice would be that you should avoid sunbeds and tanning sessions. Spray tans and other cosmetic products have improved and give a natural tan and a good beautician can control the colour very accurately. Lying in the Sun until your skin gets red is also a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean that you need to hide in the dark.”

“Being out in the sunshine and fresh air is a good thing – just make sure that you dress sensibly, wearing a hat, sunglasses and clothes to cover your skin when the sun is strong. Even in the UK, midday sun in May can damage fair skin.”

“Wearing a good sunscreen is also essential, particularly for babies and young children. Choose a higher factor if your skin is pale and you are prone to freckles and babies and encourage older children to apply sun cream for themselves as soon as they can. Reapply it during the day and after swimming or splashing about in water.”

Worried about your skin?

If you have a mole that you are worried about or other mark on your skin that is sore, weeps or bleeds and that doesn’t heal for 3-4 weeks, get some medical advice.

“Your GP can help rule out something very sinister but you can also make an appointment with a dermatology clinic to have a complete mole screen and skin check for peace of mind. Spotting skin cancers at an early stage can be tricky: our dermatologists have many years of experience and can then advise on the best treatment.”

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