I know, I know – another day, another ‘day’, ‘month’, ‘week’; celebrating or raising awareness for some thing or another… And, whilst they’re all (mostly) equally important, in the name of ‘intelligent ageing’, I’ve chosen to focus on Melanoma Awareness Month, with today marking the start of Sun Awareness Week.

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Did you know that 8 out of 10 people do not adequately apply sunscreen before going out in the sun, according to a survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists to mark Sun Awareness Week (8th-14th May).

The poll found that 80 per cent of us don’t apply sunscreen either before going out in the sun, and/or once you’re in it. This approach is the one recommended by dermatologists and for three key reasons: to make sure that the product is fully absorbed before skin is exposed to sun; to help reduce the chances of areas of skin being missed; and, to ensure a thick enough layer is applied. The survey also found that 70 per cent of people fail to reapply sunscreen every two hours as recommended.

TBH, I have to hold my hand up and say that I haven’t always been as diligent as I am now about applying suncream and there’s been many a time when I’ve cursed myself for burning some part of my body (feet/shoulders/forehead standard) yet again, all in the pursuit of the perfect tan :-0  With the benefit of hindsight, I think we’d all forgo the satisfaction of peeling sheets of skin off your shoulders (don’t tell me you haven’t done it) if we’d have known some of the ‘skin cancer stats’ that we know now…

Skin cancer facts and stats…

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Melanoma is treated differently to other skin cancers.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in cells in the skin called melanocytes. These cells are found between the dermis and epidermis and make a pigment called melanin. This gives skin its natural colour. The pigment helps to protect the body from ultraviolet light (UV radiation) from the sun. UV radiation can cause sunburn which indicates damage to the genetic material in skin cells, the DNA. Over time, enough DNA damage can cause cells to grow out of control and lead to cancer.

Around 14,500 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the UK each year. That’s about 40 new cases every day. Over the last decade, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma in the UK has increased by almost half and it is now the 5th most common cancer in the UK.

Can melanoma be cured?

When caught early, most melanomas can be cured after fairly minor surgery. In 80-90% of cases, melanoma can be removed with no recurrence. However, it can be more serious than the other forms of skin cancer, because it may spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body, for example, liver, lungs, brain etc. There is no doubt that once a melanoma has spread it can be very difficult to treat but research is continually being carried out into the disease which is yielding great progress in its treatment and ultimately, in finding a cure.

Be melanoma aware…

Visit your GP if you have any unusual moles or skin lesions that are changing, such as moles that are bleeding, itchy, an odd shape or colour, raised, larger than normal and, any skin issue you are not happy about.

It’s not only melanoma you should be aware of…

aging-mechanismWhilst skin cancer is most definitely the bum end – I speak from my mother’s experience with BCC, which she will have developed as a direct result of many years spent spit roasting in the sun with the help of some olive oil and lemon juice, and absolutely no SPF in sight! The sun and it’s UV rays are also extremely ageing (think old leather bag 🙁 ).

Did you know that only 1 in 7 women wear SPF on a daily basis! The main cause of wrinkles, as well as environmental pollution, is damage caused by UVA (ageing rays) and UVB (burning rays), which contribute to collagen break down (loss of elasticity), an increase in pigmentation (dark age spots) and dehydrated (wrinkly) skin; so a good quality sunscreen is an essential part of your skincare regime (yes, even when it’s cloudy!). You should be looking for broad spectrum formula which will protect you from both types of rays and, has an SPF of 25 or greater. I love Ultrasun Face Anti-Ageing Sun Protection for Sensitive Skin SPF30 and for the body, either their Sport or Sensitive range.

Your foundation may have an SPF, but given that the experts advise 1 teaspoon for face and neck (that’s a lot!), you should be applying a separate SPF prior to your foundation, as you won’t be applying nearly enough foundation to tick this box, and if you are, you’ve probably got too much make up on :-0

Finally, if you’re in the sun all day, you should be applying your SPF every 2 hours!

Preserve your beautiful skin and stay sun safe; you know it makes sense..

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Article produced with reference to Cancer Research UK and Melanoma UK