With the UK seeing high temperatures in recent weeks and people’s summer holidays just around the corner, one thing that everyone’s looking to achieve is a gorgeous, glowing tan. With freckles on your nose and colour in your skin, you feel automatically more confident and more attractive; however people are failing to tan ‘safely’ with 15,419 cases of skin cancer in 2014.
One of those diagnosed in 2014 with skin cancer was Katie Greenall. Now 21, Katie was just 18-years-old when she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the most aggressive and life-threatening form of skin cancer. Despite never having used a sun bed or been badly burnt, Katie’s boyfriend noticed blood on her shirt where an usual looking mole was in the middle of her back. Within an hour of the Doctor seeing Katie’s mole, she was sent into surgery for it to be removed as soon as possible after realising it was cancerous. 82% of malignant melanoma cases in women are down to major lifestyle factors or other risk factors but unfortunately Katie fell into the 18% of people who got it “out of bad luck”.
Katie said, “I always thought it would never happen to me. When I went to the Doctors that day I was thinking, ‘It’s not going to be that’ – you don’t think it will ever happen to you. You’ve got to have that mind set of putting some sun cream on because it could happen to any of us.
“Skin cancer’s sort of pushed to the side. With breast cancer and stuff, they’re more in the spotlight – but cancer’s cancer no matter what it is, especially skin cancer as it’s the largest organ of your body.”
In 2014, there were 2,459 deaths in the UK due to skin cancer; luckily Katie’s was found early enough for the Doctors to successfully remove the cancerous mole before it spread to other parts of the body which malignant melanoma has a tendency to do.
“If no one noticed the blood on my shirt, I would not have known. I felt completely normal.”
There are two other main types of skin cancer which are more common than malignant melanoma; basal cell carcinoma (a cancer of the basal cells at the bottom of the epidermis) and squamous cell carcinoma (a cancer of the keratinocyte cells in the outer layer of the skin). Basal cell carcinoma is responsible for 75% of skin cancers. These types of cancers are typically caused by sun exposure as the UV rays damages the DNA in a persons skin cells. There’s also the issue of your tone of skin as those more fair skinned – blondes and red heads typically – are more at risk of sunburn. Getting sunburnt just once every 2 years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer. For more information and support, click here.
Whilst the sun gives us vitamin D, which is an important part of the human body, it also gives off UV rays which can be seriously damaging . The chances of you getting burnt depend on the strength of the UV rays where you are. Throughout the UK today, the UV rays have been around 6 or 7 which is ‘high’ or ‘very high’ on the Met Office scale; click here to see for yourself. Cancer research advises that you protect your skin from the sun when the UV index is 3 or above. Another thing to take into account is that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm in the UK.
Whilst getting a tan is great and you think the horrendous sunburn you’ve got will “turn into a tan tomorrow” – is damaging your skin so severely for a tan worth tripling your risk of skin cancer? Sunburn doesn’t have to be as extreme as peeling or blistering, if the skin is pink or red, it is sunburnt. Sunburn can also cause premature ageing as well. Is it worth looking 10-years-older than you are just for the sake of a bit of colour to your skin?
When the weather is lovely, it is inevitable you will be wanting to go outside to sit in the sunshine which is fine as long as you enjoy the sun safely. Ways you can do this are as follows:
- Spend time in the shade throughout the day, whether this be inside, under a parasol or in a tent
- Cover yourself up for parts of the day with clothing, wear a hat to protect the face and head and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes – it’s possible (but very rare) that people get skin cancer in their eye as well as the skin
- Sun cream! Make sure you put enough on, that you put it on frequently (even those “once a day” types), use it along side shade and clothing for ultimate protection and don’t store sun cream in hot places as the heat can ruin the creams protective chemicals
Glamour magazine has recently raved about these SPF friendly products (hover over the pictures for details):