NHS skin cancer heatwave warning

By Jessica Durston - 21 July 2021


The NHS has launched the #CoverUpMate campaign to promote skin cancer awareness this Summer.

The campaign is aimed at men, women and children, encouraging all who spend time outdoors to protect themselves from the sun. 

It comes in the wake of England receiving its unprecedented 'Amber heatwave warning.' 

NHS bosses are reminding reminding holiday makers to use sunscreen in the UK after Cancer Research revealed statistics showing the rate of melanoma skin cancer in the UK has increased by almost 50% among men and 30% among women. 

Studies show even those who use sunscreen or limit time in the sun abroad don't do so in the UK.

NHS England South West Medical Director Michael Marsh said: Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer which can develop slowly over time.

"When I see people with sunburn they usually say, 'But I just stayed in the UK. Yet they've been out all day on the beach without sunscreen and this is something you would never do abroad.

"There are some simple steps we can take to lower the risk of skin cancer and be sun safe during a summer of staycations.”

Luke, a GP Nurse from Bristol was diagnosed with skin cancer aged 19. He said: “I first noticed a change near my eye, and made an appointment with my local GP. They didn’t seem too worried at first because I was so young, but referred me the dermatology team at Southmead Hospital to be on the safe side.

"The team decided to operate, removing the mole and surrounding area and sent the tissue away to the lab to be tested. When the results came back that I had Stage 1 cancer I was at work and it came as a complete shock. I never dreamt that I would be diagnosed with the big C.

"At first I didn’t tell anyone what I was dealing with; I just confided in my Mum and Dad. Even though I felt really ill, had lost weight, and was generally feeling rubbish, I was determined not to let this affect my life. So I made a conscious effort to do all the things I would usually, like going to work and spending time with friends.

"Within a few days I was called in to have my third operation, and having a background in the hospital I told them to remove as much as they possibly could. They took the surrounding tissue right back to the bone under local anaesthetic.

"Luckily I didn’t need any further treatment, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was given the all clear. I now have a check-up every three months where the team give me a head-to-toe examination, and take extra care to look at my head, moles and feel my lymph nodes.

"I’m still surprised that my mole changed so quickly, especially as I never really spent that much time outside. Even when I went abroad I would be the one seeking shade and we always tried to avoid the peak season to ensure it wasn’t too hot. Now I’m much more cautious in the sun, even when it doesn’t feel that hot. I’m the first to put sun cream and a hat on.

"Even though we might not be holidaying abroad this year, the sun in the UK is still strong and there are so many ways we can protect ourselves. Skin cancer can be avoided, so please take care this summer!

"Two years later, I feel great! Work is busy, and at the weekends I’m helping deliver Covid-19 vaccinations.”

Part of the #CoverUpMate initiative involves reminding the public to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm. The sun is at its strongest between these hours between March and October. The public are encouraged to ensure they avoid sunburn and cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses. The NHS advise that a minimum of factor 30 sunscreen is used, and that extra care is taken with children. 

Tips on exhaustion and heatstroke can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/

NHS sun safety tips can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/sunscreen-and-sun-safety/

Tips on how to ease sunburn can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sunburn/

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