The UK diagnoses over 16,000 new cases of melanomas and skin cancer each year. Skin cancer is, however, treatable and preventable. Certain practices and precautions can minimise your risk of skin cancer:
Stay in the Shade
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer and melanoma. Of course, you can’t instantly turn into a night owl and schedule all your activities at night just to avoid the sun. You can, however, stay in the shade as much as possible.
Walk under the shadows of buildings and stay under sheds as you walk outside. At home, build a patio or get a bit of protection with plastic corrugated roofing sheets. Opt for polycarbonate sheets in the UK because they filter out UV while letting in sunlight. You can also wear protective clothing, such as those fancy wide-brimmed hats. If the sun is particularly bright, bring along an umbrella. Find ways to avoid direct sunlight and minimise your UV exposure.
Many cases of melanoma can be traced to chronic UV exposure while driving. Your 30-minute drive to work exposes you to significant amounts of UV, and damage accumulates throughout your lifetime. Of course, it would be a nuisance to apply sunscreen every time you drive your car. A better option is to have your car windows treated with UV-filtering film. UV film can be as clear or as dark as you want, and the best ones will even protect you from glare.
If you must go out into the sun, wear sunscreen. Properly applied, sunscreen can block 95 to 98 per cent of UV radiation. Sunscreen can usually last two hours before its effects wear off, so make sure to reapply as needed. Of course, physical activity and exposure to water can cut its effective time by half.
Sunscreen needs time to set to be effective. Be sure to apply it 30 minutes before heading out, and bring a bottle with you if you’ll be out for an extended period. Any type of SPF will do as even the sunscreens with the lowest SPF can provide 95 per cent protection from UV damage. Men are almost twice as likely to get skin cancer compared to women, and their hesitance to use sunscreen is one of the reasons.
Skin cancers and melanomas are almost 100 per cent treatable, especially when detected early. Check your skin for discolouration, abnormal growths, new moles and sores that don’t seem to heal. If you do find these signs and marks, don’t hesitate to visit a dermatologist. Surgery for skin cancer and melanomas are usually safe, only requiring local anaesthetics and no extensive hospital stays. Treatments for melanomas and skin cancers are covered by the NHS.
Skin cancer is not as feared as other types of cancers, but it can become fatal if left untreated. Avoid UV damage to minimise your risk and don’t hesitate to get yourself checked if you suspect you might have the condition.