A dermatologist is urging outdoor workers to take a safer approach in the sun as the hot weather continues. Research shows that skin cancer is growing at a faster rate in men than women, and that men are worse at protecting themselves from the dangers of the sun.
In males in the UK melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer. Dr Jibu Varghese, a dermatology consultant from the South region is backing an NHS England campaign, Cover Up, Mate, which encourages all men who spend a significant amount of time outdoors to take action to prevent skin cancer. He said: “There is no doubt there is currently a very high incidence of melanoma – it’s on the rise. All regions of the UK are seeing an increase of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
“Covering up in the sun will reduce your risk of skin cancer which is a serious disease. The melanomas can spread and cause disease in other parts of the body and the squamous cell carcinomas can be serious if not identified early. Both these types of skin cancers are aggressive but if they are diagnosed early we can prevent that risk of spread to a greater extent. “The NHS offers a two week wait referral service for suspected melanoma, so if you have a changing mole or growth you will be seen by a specialist within two weeks – but the best advice I can give is to cover up in the sun.”
Cover Up, Mate is a skin cancer prevention initiative which specifically targets men who work outside, such as farmers and construction workers, and other who spend long periods outdoors like gardeners, and sportsmen.
The campaign is supported by the National Farmers’ Union. NFU South East regional board chairman David Exwood, said: “The summer months are some of the busiest on the farm so it’s not surprising we farmers sometimes forget to protect ourselves from the sun. We should all take a few minutes to apply plenty of sunscreen and wear a cap and a shirt to save our skin. We owe it to ourselves and our families to cover up.”
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can occur anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected area in men is the back for women it’s the legs. Melanomas are uncommon in areas which are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.
An “ABCDE moles checklist” has been developed to help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma. The checklist and other useful information can be found on the NHS Choices website at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/melanoma-skin-cancer/
Dr Varghese said: “Sun protection is important and doesn’t just mean putting on sunscreen, but also means using protective clothing, using a wide brimmed hat and wearing protective eyewear, as well as putting on sunscreen well before you go out allowing time for it to be absorbed so it is most effective – and make sure you reapply after swimming.”
Cancer Research figures indicate that, since the 1970s, skin cancer rates have quadrupled and the incidence of skin cancer in men is growing at twice the rate that it is for women.