Dr Simon Gazeley, a GP at Springfield Surgery in the Canalside Healthcare Centre in Bingley, will be sharing with The Bingley Hub readers exclusive advice on topical health issues and giving his tips for a healthy life.
Most of us enjoy the sun, especially going on holiday abroad to escape the rubbish UK weather. There is also a growing trend for a tanned body, and many younger people look for artificial ways of getting the sun-drenched look. Unfortunately uv-light from the sun or from sun-beds causes unseen damage to our skin. If you allow yourself to get burnt, you will be at risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Even if you do avoid sunburn, the cumulative effects of repeated exposure to sun or sun-beds over the years can also lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer in the UK is rapidly becoming more and more common. This is due to many factors, including the ozone hole, global warming, affordability of foreign holidays, fashion trends and because we’re all living longer. One local specialist recently predicted that in the future we will all be likely to have at least one type of skin cancer in our lives.
What can I do to prevent skin cancer?
- Use suncream whenever you go out in the sun, at least factor 30, ideally factor 50.
- Wear a hat and long sleeves wherever possible.
- Avoid the mid-day sun.
- Sit in the shade.
- Do not use sun-beds, and if you must look tanned, go for the spray options! Using a sun-bed before the age of 35 increases your risk of skin cancer by 75%.
- The fairer you skin, the more careful you need to be.
Types of skin cancer
In general terms, there are 2 groups
Melanomas. This is the group we are often more familiar with, because they are more dangerous. They can start in exisiting moles, but can also appear in normal skin and be mistaken for a new mole.
Non-melanotic skin cancers (NMSCs). Although less dangerous, they are still important to spot. They can look pink/red, crusty, scabby or ulcerated.
How do I know if I’ve got skin cancer?
Research shows that diagnosis of skin cancer is often delayed because people fail to check their skin regularly, they don’t know what to check for and they are reluctant to seek medical advice.
Check yourself and look for changes in your moles and for new moles. If you have lots of them, a good trick is to take a digital photo so you have a record of your moles to compare to in the future (especially good for the back).
Use the ABCDE method if you are concerned:A. Asymmetry. Split the mole in 2, both sides should look the same. B. Border. The border should be smooth and regular and well-defined. C. Colour. Moles should have a consistent colour, with no more than 2 different shades. D. Diameter. It is unusual for melanomas to be less than 6mm from one side to the other. E. Expert. If in doubt, check it out! If you’ve noticed any change in size, shape or diameter, see your GP for further advice.
As skin cancers vary, you should tell your doctor about any changes to your skin, even if they are not similar to those mentioned here.