The holiday is in sight, the packing almost done. Some sun, sea and sand beckon… but wait a minute, that golden all-over tan…will achieving it be the most dangerous thing you do on holiday?
Here at Students’ Health Service we have just diagnosed a malignant melanoma (skin cancer in a mole) in a student in his early twenties. It’s unusual, but not that rare. And numbers nationally are increasing, especially in men.
Two new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the 15-34 year age group every day in the UK, that’s 900 new cases a year. A total of 12 000 in all age groups.
Women are more at risk than men, and other risk factors include; a relative with a malignant melanoma, fair skin, red/ fair hair and pale eyes, having more than 100 moles on your whole body, severe sunburn in childhood, or an outdoor job.
The main cause of melanoma is excessive sun exposure, and sunburn, even in theUK, can cause problems if repeated over the years.
So if you notice a change in a mole such as darkening patches, or irregular edges, or a brand new mole growing, then we would like to see you to check it.
If you also notice bleeding/ crusting or a reddish edge then these need checking if they don’t settle back to completely normal within 2 weeks.
So back to packing that bag; what can you do to protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancer?
Simple measures like wearing a hat, and sunglasses with UV protection.
Always using sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, with UVA protection too.
Keeping in the shade where possible.
Taking care not to burn and to avoid being in the sun between 11am and 3pm, with extra care nearer the equator and at high altitude.
These basic steps will significantly reduce your risk, not just of sunburn and melanoma but also of other non melanoma skin cancers too.
If you are ever worried about a mole, then please come and see any of the doctors, and you could also checkout www.sunsmart.org.uk
Have a great holiday!