We know sunshine is good for us and we need vitamin D for our health but we have to be careful about our exposure to the sun because skin cancer is on the rise. Melanoma, the deadliest form, was once considered rare but there are now more diagnoses’ in one year than ever before – hitting the 10,000 mark in the UK alone. Plastic surgeons there are spending increasing amounts of time removal suspicious moles and skin blemishes.
Barry Powell, member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and National Clinical Advisor in Skin Cancer has reported significant rise in the number of patients he is treating for skin cancers. He says: “Surgical removal of melanoma and non-melanoma are the best forms of treatment. A high proportion of UK plastic surgeon’s non-emergency workload is now spent treating and reconstructing the rising number of patients suffering from skin cancer.”
Given the results of research from BAPRAS, this growth is unsurprising. Its recent study revealed that despite the threat of skin cancer, one fifth of British adults will not spend less time sunbathing. This was particularly true amongst 18-24 year olds, with nearly a third of people in this age group saying they would not change their sunbathing habits and 19% of these believing they were not even at risk of developing skin cancer.
Mr Powell continues: “There are an increasing number of younger people being diagnosed with melanoma. The fact they are not taking skin cancer seriously is extremely worrying. As plastic surgeons and dermatologists treating the condition will know, most people are completely stunned when they are diagnosed and are often unaware of the complex surgical procedures involved and the potential for long-term scarring. Indeed, although we are experts in minimising scarring, if diagnosis is late we will often have to make a bigger excision which may require a skin graft to cover the wound.”
The BAPRAS research also found that 14% of people would delay getting a mole or mark checked, believing it too trivial to concern their GP with. More concerning was that 4% of people said they would not get it checked at all.
It is a question of finding balance. We need some sunshine as vitamin D helps our bodies in numerous ways. But this need has to be balanced with sun awareness and skin protection. The sun feels good on our skin and many people believe that they look and feel better when they are tanned but there are risks involved. Mr Powell concludes: “The research clearly shows a greater need for the medical profession to work together to help combat the rise in skin cancer. We need to warn people of the potentially fatal health risks and communicate that early diagnosis is key to survival.”