SKIN & THE SUN: some food for thought

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There are lesser known facts about skin cancer that are more positive inasmuch as they empower by increasing our knowledge about how it develops and so make it preventable. Did you know, for instance, that just one sunburn as a child can double your chances of skin cancer in adulthood? That you are more at risk after a burst of sunlight on a holiday where the sun is strong? And that while women are more prone to melanomas than men, those aged between 40 and 60 years are especially susceptible? Of the three forms of skin cancer – basal cell, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas – the latter is the most dangerous and spreads in two ways: horizontally making a mole look uneven, or downwards, when the cells invade the lymph system. While moles usually develop on women’s limbs (legs especially) and men’s trunks (often backs) it is vital to see them for what they are and turn into (colour, size and shape changes), because if detected early, skin cancer has a 99% cure rate. Prompt treatment then is paramount, and while a chain of referrals once meant this took weeks now all it takes is a trip to a specialist clinic: the Cadogan Clinic has opened a skin cancer unit where suspect moles are diagnosed and removed in a day under one roof, and the Mole Clinic operates a TELEderm service in its clinics around the UK which provides rapid dermascopic mole diagnosis and subsequent treatment. This, to me, is a big leap forward in preventing skin cancer because while the SPF message can be confusing (due to different agendas) this is direct, impartial help.