My View, Dr David Crichton: Diane's story shows danger of the sun
Around 10 Doncaster people die from skin cancer-related deaths every year, and many more need surgery to remove life-threatening cancerous growths from their body.
It’s vital to remember protecting your skin is the only way to stay safe in the sun. Everyone’s at risk, but more so if you are aged under 18, have pale skin and blue eyes or lots of moles and freckles.
The sun shouldn’t be feared, it produces Vitamin D for the body, but needs to be respected, as Doncaster Council worker Diane Glancy can confirm. Twenty years ago, Diane, from Balby, had a large mole removed from her back under minor surgery at her GP practice, which was sent off for a biopsy and found to be a malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. Diane, then in her early 40s, needed a hospital operation to remove a five-inch wide area of skin around where the mole had been to successfully prevent further spread.
Then three years ago, her dad who was then aged 88, was also diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, which has so far been safely treated. Now – aged 91 – he is a member of a skin cancer research project led by Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital.
Diane shares her story at skin safety awareness sessions run by the public health team at Doncaster Council. When I was a doctor in the army, we routinely gave sun awareness advice to soldiers prior to exercise in hot countries and issued free sun cream. Doncaster Council takes a similar approach for its outdoor workers.
Malignant melanoma occurs anywhere on the skin, not necessarily where sunburn has been. In women it occurs most frequently on the legs and on men, most often on the back. It can quickly spread to other organs so early detection is key to saving lives.
Remember children cook more easily. Studies show getting sunburnt just once during childhood increases the risk of developing a malignant melanoma in later life.
So, as temperatures rise, if you’re going to be in direct sunlight remember these important safety tips:
n Cover up with clothes and a wide-brimmed hat before your skin turns red or burns
n Use a High SPF sun cream (Factor 50 preferably) reapply often
n Take extra care with children
n Avoid sunbeds – they are banned for under 18s and significantly increase the risk of malignant melanoma
n Report moles if they are growing in size, changing colour or skin changes that are not getting better. See your GP to get them checked.
n Stay in the shade 11am to 3pm
n Drink plenty of water
It’s the same sun here as abroad. It will burn and hurt if you don’t take precautions