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Skin specialists at Medway Maritime Hospital are urging us all to stay safe in the sun over the upcoming bank holidays.
Skin cancer caused by being in the sun without protection has become increasingly common over the last three decades.
There are two main types of skin cancer – malignant melanoma and non-melanoma. Malignant melanomas are the least common but most serous type of skin cancer and although they tend to occur in those aged over 65, it is becoming more widespread among younger adults. It is now the second most common cancer in 15 – 34 year olds.
Nellie Kumaralingam, Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist for Skin Cancers at Medway Maritime Hospital explained: "Over the last thirty years, incidence rates of malignant melanoma in Britain have increased more rapidly than any of the top ten cancers in men and women. Rates among men have increased more than five times and rates among women have more than tripled. This is a major cause for concern.
"The main risk factor for skin cancer is over exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The main source of this is the sun but it can also be found in sun beds and sun lamps. It is estimated that around 80 percent of melanomas in fair-skinned people and 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.
"Not everyone's skin is the same so it's important to know your skin type and what level of protection you need. There are six main types of skin – type one is pale, burns easily, rarely tans and generally has light or red hair and freckles and requires maximum protection. Type six has black skin and only burns with excessive exposure to the sun so therefore needs less protection.
"There are a few simple things you can do to help protect yourself against the harmful affects of the sun – cover up with clothes and wear a hat and UV protective sunglasses; try to stay in the shade when the sun is at its peak (usually between 11am and 3pm); use a sunscreen of at least SPF30; and try to keep babies and children out of direct sunlight. No sunscreen can offer 100 percent protection so it's important to remember not to use it as an alternative to clothing or shade.
"Malignant melanoma can appear anywhere on the skin as a new or changing mole – changes in size, shape or colour are early signs of malignant change, as are itching, bleeding and crusting. It's easy to spot the signs if you remember the ABCD rule:
A – asymmetry (is its shape asymmetrical)
B – border (are the edges irregular)
C – colour (has it changed colour or does the pigmentation vary)
D – diameter (does it measure more than 5mm or is it growing)
"Vitamin D, which you can get from the sun, is essential for good health but you only need to spend a short time in the sun to get enough. Everyone can find a balance between enjoying the beneficial effects of the sun while not increasing the risk of cancer. Most cases of skin cancer can be avoided by following these basic rules."