Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Around 14,500 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the UK each year, making it the 5th most common cancer in the UK. The main cause is too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds. In the UK, more than 8 in 10 cases could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding using sunbeds.
As we approach warmer weather, let’s just remind ourselves using the 5 S’s of how to stay safe in the sun.
- SLIP on a t-shirt to keep shoulders covered as they can easily burn, but clothing should cover as much as possible. UV protective clothing gives the best protection.
- SLOP on sunscreen. The NHS recommends at least a SPF 15 or above with the letters “UVA” in a circle logo on the bottle. Make sure it has not expired as most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years. Apply a generous amount to clean, dry, exposed skin and apply it 20 minutes before going outdoors and preferably once again when outdoors. Regardless of the instructions all sunscreens should be reapplied at least every 2 hours and more if perspiring or straight after swimming.
- SLAP on a broad brimmed hat the shades the face, neck and ears.
- SLIDE on quality wrap-around sunglasses. Look for the CE Mark and European Standard EN 1836:2005 which indicates a safe level of protection.
- SHADE from the sun whenever possible, particularly between 11am-3pm. Shade can provide a good barrier between our skin and the sun. Seek shade whenever possible, particularly at the hottest times of the day between 11am and 3pm when UV penetration is strongest. Keep toddlers and babies in the shade at all times.
Staying safe in the sun should help give you good protection, but if you do notice any skin changes, it is important to see your GP. The earlier a melanoma is found, the easier it is to treat. See your doctor straight away if you have a new mole or skin change. Or you have a mole that is:
- getting bigger
- changing shape, particularly getting an irregular edge
- changing colour – getting darker, becoming patchy or multi shaded
- loss of symmetry – the two halves of your mole do not look the same
- itching or painful
- bleeding or becoming crusty
- looking inflamed
Last week, we sadly said goodbye to Paramedic Kath Osmond who lost her brave battle with Melanoma. Many of the Paramedic trainers here at ECG had worked with Kath and she has left a huge hole in the ambulance service family. Let’s use Kath’s legacy to help raise awareness of Melanoma and the importance of staying safe in the sun. Our thoughts are with Kath’s family at this sad time.
NHS Choices Sunscreen & Sun Safety http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/skin/Pages/Sunsafe.aspx
Cancer Research UK http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/melanoma
Melanoma UK http://www.melanomauk.org.uk/
Written by Sophie McCracken 5th May 2017