What is skin cancer? What causes skin cancer? How do I know if I have got skin cancer? Am I at risk of skin cancer? Can I protect against skin cancer?
I got to thinking about all of these questions recently as we are experiencing an unprecedented amount of sun in the United Kingdom.
All around me people are flocking to the beaches; sitting in the parks and having so much fun in the sun but there is a potential down side to all of this joy.
Most of us have moles on our bodies, these moles are innocent, how often do you check them to see if they have changed colour or increased in size.
Melanoma’s or cancer starts with what looks like an over sized or bleeding mole, regular checking of your moles is the first line of defence as early diagnosis can make all the difference.
Skin Cancer Information
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is probably one of the most common cancers around the world, in the United Kingdom it is estimated that more than 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.
There are two specific types of skin cancer; Non Melanoma and Melanoma.
Non Melanoma- Generally not fatal but need to be removed to prevent progression. Removal of non melanoma often leaves scarring.
Melanoma- Rarer of the two skin cancers but much more serious. Early diagnosis and treatment increase survival rates.
See all 3 photos
Skin Cancer vs Mole courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
What causes skin cancer?
It is medically recognised that excessive exposure to the UV rays of the sun and over use of sunbeds is a major cause of skin cancer; both cause the skin to burn leaving the skin damaged and susceptible to skin cancer.
Burning of the skin vastly increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
Over exposure to the sun or sunbeds has the potential to put you at risk of other problems such as early ageing of your skin,sun rashes, more cold sores and eye problems.
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See all 3 photos
Skin Cancer courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
How do I know if I have got skin cancer?
We all have skin, we wash it, put lotions on it, cover it up with cosmetics and shave it but do we honestly inspect it?
Taking the time to check your skin is a very important action in preventing skin cancer, early diagnosis greatly reduces the chances of long term and escalating skin damage.
Common signs to look out for are:
Mole or dark patches that seem to be getting larger
Moles with ragged edges, different colours, are inflamed, reddish edges, bleeds or oozes
A growth or sore that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, is continually itchy or bleeds
This is not an exhaustive list and any strange or new variations in your skin should be checked over by a medical professional.
Am I at risk of skin cancer?
Everybody has the potential to develop skin cancer and should take precautions to limit this risk.
A percentage of the population are at a higher risk of skin cancer, some of this risk is preventable some isn’t so easy.
People who have had over exposure to the sun or have spent too much time on sunbeds
People with certain skin types, freckled skin, fair skin, red hair, fair hair, lots of normal moles, children and young people are all at a higher risk of developing long term skin damage or skin cancer if preventative measures are not taken.
The risk is increased for people who have a family history of skin cancer, have previously had skin cancer, have suffered severe sunburn particularly in childhood and who spend a lot of time outdoors in a job or recreation.See all 3 photos
Melanoma courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Can I protect myself against skin cancer?
The short answer is; yes you can.
You can take sensible steps to lower your chances of developing skin cancer:
Stay out of the sun by seeking out shade; especially between the hours of 11am and 3 pm when the sun is at it’s hottest and most dangerous.
Limit your use of or stop using sunbeds completely.
Cover up, wear a hat, use sun screen and after sun, wear tightly knitted loose fitting clothing, wear sunglasses.
Take special care with babies and young children, there is no excuse for allowing children to play for hours in the sun without adequate protection.
Final word on skin cancer.
Having fun and spending time outdoors are all part of are daily lives.
Always be aware of the potential risk to yourself, your children and your pets.
Take precautions by using good quality sun screen, wear appropriate clothing and eyewear.
Don’t leave your skin to chance, if you notice any changes no matter how small seek medical advice.
If in doubt; Check it out!
Skin Cancer Resources
The Skin Cancer Foundation – Home
The Skin Cancer Foundation is the leading skin cancer prevention organization. We have doctor-approved information and sun-safety instructions.
Cancer care and support charity – Macmillan Cancer Support
Find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support and stay up-to-date with Macmillan’s cancer care services, cancer campaigning and cancer charity fundraising efforts. Browse through information and publications on cancer, get advice and financial help wi
National Cancer Institute – Comprehensive Cancer Information
Accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive cancer information from the U.S. government’s principal agency for cancer research.
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