It’s starting to feel like Summer may finally be on the way – hooray! For many of us that means it’s time to get our shorts on and take up residence in a deckchair in the garden. Cold beer optional!
Soaking up some sunshine has many health benefits such a triggering the body’s production of Vitamin D, helping to reduce high blood pressure and even improving brain function. But there are also some very serious health risks associated with sun exposure and it’s vitally important that we are all aware of how to protect ourselves.
Skin cancer is the worlds most common cancer and every day 44 people are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV rays, either from sunlight or tanning beds. The UV rays damage the skin’s DNA, meaning that it can’t properly control skin cell growth and this leads to cancer developing.
So what can we do to reduce our risk of getting skin cancer?
Firstly it is important and reassuring to know that 99% of cases of skin cancer are curable if they are detected and treated early enough. But in order for this to be the case you need to be aware of the symptoms and alert to changes in your body.
You should get into the habit of checking your skin every month. Look out for any changes such as patches of skin that are thick and crusty, moles that have changed shape, colour or texture and open sores that never fully heal. You should also pay close attention to moles which are raised or irregular in shape. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body but it is most likely in areas that are more exposed to UV rays such as the face, lips, ears, scalp, shoulders, forearms and the back of the neck.
If you notice any changes to your skin you should make an appointment to see your GP or a dermatologist as soon as possible. Remember, early detection and treatment saves lives!
It is also important to wear a high factor of sun cream when you are outdoors and spend some time in the shade to give your skin a break. Being sunburnt more than five times doubles your risk of developing melanoma so remember to slap on that suncream!
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and you can get involved. Visit skincancer.org for more information and to download a social media toolkit with images and resources.