Skin cancer is a largely preventable disease, but the number of cases has more than quadrupled in the UK over the last thirty years. Practising sun safety and regularly checking for signs of skin cancer can help reduce the risk of skin cancer and detect problems early.
Over the last 25 years malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, has seen the largest increase in incidence rates of all major cancers.
Malignant melanoma claims over 2,000 deaths every year and is now the second most common cancer in young adults in the UK.
One of the most effective skin cancer prevention methods is to protect yourself from the sun's harmful UV rays. This can be achieved by finding shade under trees, umbrellas, canopies or being indoors.
Adopting a sun safety ethos is essential as UV rays are invisible and cannot be felt on the skin (the heat of the sun comes from infrared rays instead). UV rays penetrate deeply into our cells, causing changes that lead to sunburn, skin ageing, eye damage and skin cancer.
You can protect yourself from sunburn by spending time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest (between 10am and 4pm). Also by covering commonly burnt areas, like the shoulders and face, with clothing, hats and sunscreen.
Sun safety isn’t just about staying in the shade, sunscreens can be useful for protecting our skin from the sun's rays. However, they will not protect us completely from sun damage on their own. This is why we recommend using sunscreens together with shade or clothing to avoiding getting caught out by sunburn.
You should never use sunscreen in order to spend longer in the sun.
You may have some moles or dark patches on your skin that are flat or slightly raised. Usually these will remain harmless all your life.
But moles or patches of normal skin that change in size, shape or colour over weeks or months in adult life should be investigated by experts at SkinHealth UK or by seeing your local GP.
Being aware of signs of skin cancer is critical to early detection of skin cancer. Follow the simple ABCD rule to improve your skin awareness.
If you notice any of the following signs of skin cancer, then see your doctor without delay.