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May is skin cancer awareness month

May is skin cancer awareness month

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Its that time of year again and we are either thinking of where to go on holiday this summer or maybe we have already booked a trip. Its great to have something to look forward to but remember to stock up on SPF and stay safe in the sun. Sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer, it ages the skin and causes age spots and pigmentation problems, in fact a tanned skin is now regarded as a damaged skin.

What can increase the risk of skin cancer:

  • Hereditary factors, if you have a family member who has had skin cancer
  • Smoking
  • Fair skin
  • Bad Scar tissue that has been exposed to the sun
  • Overuse of sunbeds and sun exposure

There are three major types of skin cancer, which are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Non melanoma is basel cell and squamous cell carcinomas and are grouped together and known as common skin cancers. Both these common skin cancers appear on any part of the body that is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or sun beds. Mainly on the face, nose, ears, lips, scalp, neck, chest, arms, hands and legs.

Basal cell carcinoma affect people with fair to pale skin, with freckles and blonde or red hair and are more common in men than women.  Most BCC are painless and appear as a scab that occasionally bleeds and doesn’t heal properly. Some look like a scaly mark or a pearl shape bump. If left untreated can erode the skin causing an ulcer, which is why it gets its name as rodent ulcers. Most BCC can be cured if diagnosed and treated early enough.

Squamous cell carcinoma affects around 25,000 people every year and treatment is very effective. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma skin cancer is different to non melanoma cancer and starts in the cells in the skin which are called melanocytes. These cells are found between the dermis and epidermis of the skin. Melanocytes make a pigment called melanin that gives skin its natural colour and protects the body from ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. Too much exposure to the sun and not wearing protection from clothes and sun lotions causes the skin to burn. Sunburn damages our DNA and over a period of time results in damaged cells growing into cancer. Other factors are sun beds, skin type, hair and eye colour, the number of moles on the skin, family history or a weakened immune system.

Melanoma can appear on normal skin, as a lump, growth, sore or develop from a mole that appears on the skin or from one that already exists. Some moles are present from birth that may develop into melanomas. Any changes to the skin or any bleeding from skin growths are best checked to rule out skin cancer.

People who live in hotter climates tend to have naturally darker skins making their melanocytes more active, and making more use of the pigmentation in the skin, more so than in paler skin.

Melanoma is slightly more common in females than males and around 50% of people diagnosed with melanoma in the UK each year are aged 65 and over.

The best treatment for melanoma is early detection, prevention being better than cure. So it is vital to check regularly for any signs. To assist with this it is helpful to know the ABCD system as follows:

  • Asymmetry: One side of the abnormal area is different from the other side.
  • Borders: The area of growth has irregular edges.
  • Colour: One area of growth is a different colour to another, with colours of tan, brown, or black, white, red, or blue or a mixture of colours may appear within one growth.
  • Diameter: The growth area is normally larger than 6 mm in diameter – but not always.

To treat melanoma, the cancerous skin cells and a portion of the normal surrounding skin usually have to be surgically removed.

Tips to stay safe in the sun

  • Use a combination of shade, clothing and SPF.
  • Wear a large sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Cover up with loose fitting clothing.
  • Stay in the shade at the hottest time of the day, usually from about 11am – 3pm. A major misconception is that applying sunscreen once a day is enough, choose an SPF with a rating of 4 stars and reapply regularly, I reapply every hour when on holiday.
  • Environ skincare contains active vitamins and antioxidants to help protect your skin from the sun
  • Jane Iredale mineral make up contains a natural SPF

Wherever you go this year, have fun and stay safe in the sun.

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