Research Outreach Blog
August 23, 2022

Skin cancer awareness month

As balmy, long evenings and temperate sunshine return to the western hemisphere, May marks the arrival of more than just the first of the season’s strawberries and the smell of sun cream. May is skin cancer awareness month. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, making up a third of all diagnosed cases. They are abnormal growths of skin cells, caused by mutations in our DNA, and are normally found in areas often exposed to the sun – like the face or arms. Skin cancers are categorised into three types: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The WHO estimates that ‘between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year.’ Skin cancers can be fatal. Melanoma is the most dangerous of the three; this year alone roughly 7,650 people will die from the disease.

Detect: you can see it

So, who does it affect? Ethnicity and skin type are risk factors for how likely you are to develop skin cancer, with fair and freckled skin particularly susceptible. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis. However, BAME skin cancers are often diagnosed late, so survival rates are lower for people with darker skin tones than those with white skin. It’s therefore very important to know how to prevent and spot skin cancer early, which is why we’re supporting the Skin Cancer Foundation’s The Big See campaign. As a cancer you can see, The Big See says we should look for anything ‘New’, ‘Changing’, or ‘Unusual’ on our skin to spot skin cancer early. Think new freckles, moles, blemishes or areas of pigmentation. Are they changing shape, size, texture or colour? Are they unusual, a-symmetrical or painful? If you spot anything on this list, then book an appointment with your doctor.

Prevent: Sun cream and shade

About 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some time in their lives. However, there are things that we can all do to lower the risk of developing the disease. May might be the first time that many of us consider reaching for the sun cream, but skin cancer can be caused by sun damage all year round. It is, therefore, a good idea to choose a daily moisturiser with built-in SPF protection against the sun’s UV radiation. Due to high levels of UV in the spring and summer months, it’s especially important to lather up with a high SPF (50+) lotion to enjoy the sun safely and prevent sunburn and skin damage that can increase your risk of skin cancer. Wearing hats, covering up, avoiding the sun at the hottest part of the day and sticking to the shade will all help reduce your risk. Tanning beds have also been linked to increased incidence of skin cancers, so are best avoided. The takeaway? Enjoy the sun – just not for too long.

Want to find out more? Read here to find out how researchers are developing new treatments for metastatic melanoma.

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