Skin specialists at Kettering General Hospital are asking local people to be aware of the cancer dangers of sun exposure this summer and to cover-up and be careful.
The advice follows a skin surveillance day held by the hospital from May 3-5, at Prospect House in Kettering, attended by 633 members of the public.
Of those some 50 were diagnosed with a skin cancer of some kind – including the most serious, and potentially life-threatening kind of cancer, malignant melanoma.
The Trust’s Clinical Lead for Skin Cancer, Dr Olivia Stevenson, said: “Mole cancer (melanoma) is the most publicised and most dangerous kind of skin cancer and we found six of these at our skin surveillance event earlier this year.
“But anyone who has a mole or lesion which is changing rapidly on the skin or behaving differently from other moles, for example changing colour, weeping, bleeding or growing faster, should go to their GP for advice.
“Sometimes people, particularly men, can ignore these sorts of changes when they really should have them checked out by their GP straight away as if caught early many skin cancers can be completely cured. The earlier we find cancers the better the outcome with a reduced need for surgery in some cases.”
Dr Stevenson personally sees some 20-30 new skin cancers each week at the hospital.
She said: “Unfortunately many people are still not aware of the damage the sun can cause and the importance of protecting your skin. Having a deep suntan is still a bit of a fashion statement but unfortunately it is also a sign of damage to the skin.
“Excessive sun exposure can lead to freckling, to the skin looking older and more wrinkled, and increase the risk of skin cancer. And skin cancer is now the fastest growing cause of cancer deaths.”
Why I was glad I went to the KGH event - Patient case studies
Carolyn Boddington, 75, from Desborough attended this year’s skin surveillance event because she was concerned about moles that were itching on her back.
She said: “I had been putting off doing something about my concerns when I saw the skin surveillance event at KGH on facebook and I decided to attend.
“I had lived in Africa in the 1970s for several years so I know, even though I was careful, I had a lot of sun exposure.
“I attended the event and found that the moles I was concerned about were OK but there was one on my back which was suspicious and a cause for concern.
“Within two weeks it was removed under a local anaesthetic at the dermatology unit at Prospect House in Kettering. It was found to have been malignant melanoma and so on August 7 I had a second excision of some of the surrounding skin to be safe.
“I was very grateful to the team for dealing with my cancer so quickly. My advice to anyone with concerns about moles or their skin is to get it checked out. Dealing with them quickly is what you need to do.”
Helen Gatehouse, 51, from Isham, also attended the surveillance event after seeing it advertised on facebook because she was concerned about a large mole on her leg.
She said: “I had it checked by a GP about six years ago but I was still concerned and when I saw the event advertised I went along.
“Straight away the doctors said they all thought it was a cancer. I was shocked and traumatized but all the staff were very helpful and supportive.
“Things then happened very quickly. In four days I had another check and it about 10 days it was removed – and I will have a follow-up operation and skin graft soon.
“I think it is very important to act on your concerns – especially if a mole is changing or itchy, which mine was a bit. I also had support from a Macmillan nurse and the school I work at have been very kind as well.
“In terms of sun safety I am very pale skinned and burn quite easily. I think it is really important to protect yourself when you are outdoors and I use a very high factor cream now.”
General advice in the sun
- Use a good quality sun cream (at least factor 15), applied liberally, to all exposed skin. Remember to re-apply every 2-3 hours or after swimming.
- Wear a broad brimmed hat and clothing that completely covers sensitive areas and is not so translucent that the sun’s rays can penetrate through it and cause damage
- Be sensible and stay in the shade during the hottest parts of the day and limit your time in the sun
- If you feel you must sun bath limit it sensibly and remember that you may not realise you have burned yourself until several hours later
- If you do get a mole or lesion that is changing – go to your GP and get it checked out.
- World Health Organization (WHO) figures show there are about 18,000 cases of melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year – that’s about 50 per day
- Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 4% of all new cancer cases (2016-2018).
- Over the last decade, melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have increased by around a third (32%) in the UK.
- Rates in females have increased by more than a quarter (27%), and rates in males have increased by almost two-fifths (38%) (2016-2018).
- 92% of people recognised that sun exposure can cause health problems, but only 18% always protect their skin from the sun.
- 61% of people believe having tanned skin is attractive and 49% cannot imagine coming back from holiday without a tan.