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Keeping your skin safe all year round


Dr Rachel Abbott

Consultant Dermatologist

Do you have fair skin? You could be at greater risk of cancer.

It’s important to remember to check your skin for changes in moles year-round, not just in the summer months. Checking is easy and can be done at home with help from family.

Having fair skin makes you at greater risk of cancer

Skin cancer is increasingly common in people with fair skin due to changes in our behaviour in the sun over recent decades. Holidaying abroad in areas with a high ultraviolet (UV) index has become more popular, together with use of sun beds and the desire for tanned skin. However, if your skin goes red before you tan then you are at increased risk of skin cancer. By taking simple precautions you can prevent the development of skin cancer which can be life threatening.

If your skin goes red before you tan then you are at increased risk of skin cancer. 

It is important to respect your skin, especially when on sunny holidays abroad but also in the UK during the summer months. When the UV index is 3 and above – particularly between 11am and 3pm – it is advisable to stay in the shade, wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved clothing and high factor sunscreen (>30SPF, 4-5 star UVA) on any exposed skin.

UV radiation is not visible and so, often, people are unaware of being sunburnt until the damage is done. Signs of sunburn include redness and pain of sun exposed areas sometimes leading to permanent freckling and other signs of sun damage. No one is born with freckles.

Don’t risk your life in pursuit of a tan. Regular sun bed use under the age of 35 doubles the risk of melanoma (cancerous mole).

Protecting children’s skin from harmful UV rays

It is essential to protect children’s skin because one episode of blistering sunburn in childhood doubles their chances of developing melanoma in later life. Babies should be kept in the shade during peak UV times until they are able to move. Sunsuits and legionnaire style hats can be helpful for young children together with very high factor (>50SPF, 4-5 star UVA) sunscreen.

What to look for on your skin – ABCDE checklist

Examine your skin regularly – at least every 3 months – using a mirror to check your back or ask a family member. And don’t forget to check your scalp, your nails and the bottom of your feet.

Use the ABCDE checklist for moles:

  • Asymmetry (when one half of the mole doesn’t match the other)
  • Border (when the edge of mole is irregular or blurred)
  • Colour change (when the mole is more than one colour)
  • Diameter (when the mole is 6mm or more),
  • Evolving (any change in the mole over time).

Also, check to see whether any of your moles stand out as looking different to the rest of your moles, which is known as the ‘ugly duckling’ sign. Other red flag signs for skin lumps and bumps include bleeding and pain. 

If you are concerned about anything on your skin, seek medical advice.

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