Importance of using sunscreen properly
Here is the weekly Health Matters column, written by members of the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
Eight out of ten people are failing to adequately apply sunscreen before going out in the sun, according to a survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists to mark Sun Awareness Week (May 2-8).
The poll found that 80 per cent of us don’t apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and then shortly afterwards. This is the approach recommended for three key reasons of which the public should be aware:
• To make sure that the product is fully absorbed before skin is exposed to sun;
• To help reduce the chances of areas of skin being missed;
• And to ensure a thick enough layer is applied.
The survey also found that 70 per cent of people fail to reapply sunscreen every two hours as recommended.
In addition, NHS Lincolnshire CCG is also keen during Sun Awareness Week to highlight the signs and symptoms of melanoma, the most common thing to look for being the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can happen anywhere on the body, but the back, legs, arms and face are most common.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and more than one colour. They may also be larger than normal moles and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. An “ABCDE checklist” has been developed for people to tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma, and this checklist can be found by visiting www.nhs.uk
Melanoma happens when some cells in the skin begin to develop abnormally. It is thought that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from natural or artificial sources may be partly responsible.
Certain things can increase your chances of developing melanoma, such as having:
• Lots of moles or freckles;
• Pale skin that burns easily;
• Red or blonde hair;
• A family member who has had melanoma.
We would urge any patients to go to see their GP if they notice changes to any moles that they have. You can help protect yourself from sun damage by using sunscreen and dressing sensibly in the sun. Sunbeds and sunlamps should also be avoided.
Regularly checking your moles and freckles can help lead to an early diagnosis and increase your chances of successful treatment. In most cases, a suspicious mole will be surgically removed and studied to see if it is cancerous. This is known as a biopsy. You may also have a test to check if melanoma has spread elsewhere. This is known as a sentinel node biopsy.
The main treatment for melanoma is surgery, although treatment will depend on individual circumstances. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, surgery is usually successful.
If melanoma isn’t diagnosed until an advanced stage, treatment is mainly used to slow the spread of the cancer and reduce symptoms. This usually involves medicines, such as chemotherapy.
Once you have had melanoma, there is a chance it may return. This risk is increased if your cancer was widespread and severe. If your cancer team feels there is a significant risk of your melanoma returning, you will probably need regular check-ups to monitor your health. You will also be taught how to examine your skin and lymph nodes to help detect melanoma if it returns.
Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK with around 13,000 new cases each year. More than a quarter of cases are diagnosed in people under 50, which is unusual compared to most other types of cancer. It’s also becoming more common in the UK over time, thought to be caused by increased exposure to UV light from the sun and sunbeds.
More than 2,000 people die every year in the UK from melanoma. Melanoma is not always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of developing it by limiting your exposure to UV light.
More information about melanoma can be found on www.nhs.uk