Common questions about sun protection

sun protection

We all know that protecting our skin from the sun is important. But few people understand the true risks it poses to our health. Skin cancer rates are rapidly growing in the UK, with estimates that it will rise by 9% between the years 2023-2025.

Understandably, patients often have questions about sun protection and the risk of skin cancer. So this blog provides answers to some of the most common questions about sun protection you may have.

What is the cause of skin cancer?

Each year, nearly 100,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed. It is assumed that it mostly affects older adults, which is a common misconception. While the risk of developing melanoma does increase with age, it is the most diagnosed cancer among adults between the ages of 25 to 29. These findings from the Melanoma Research Alliance, emphasise the need for increased sun protection awareness and education around skin cancer prevention in younger people.

The most significant risk factor for skin cancer is failing to protect the skin against harmful UV. Exposure to direct sunlight is the leading cause of skin cancer, and UV exposure from tanning beds is also dangerous.

Although the popularity of indoor tanning is decreasing, there are still millions of adults who use these beds. This is extremely worrying given that just one session on an indoor tanning bed before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.

Types of skin cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer, including Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Malignant Melanoma. Of these, Malignant Melanoma is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Basal Cell Carcinoma typically presents as a skin lesion that fails to heal and may occasionally bleed. It is slow-growing and does not typically spread to other organs, but early treatment is always recommended.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma, on the other hand, usually appears as a firm lump that may be crusted or scaly. It can grow more rapidly than Basal Cell Carcinoma and has the potential to spread if left untreated.

Finally, Malignant Melanoma develops from pigment cells or melanocytes, and commonly presents as a new or changing mole-like lesion.

Who is susceptible?

Skin cancer can affect people of all ages, but the amount of damage sustained depends on various factors such as skin type, geographic location, and level of sun exposure. Lighter skin types for example are generally more susceptible. But those with darker skin, although less prone to developing skin cancer, can still be affected. It is also worth noting that cases of skin cancer in men are on the rise, with death rates more than tripling since the 1970’s.

Best sun protection precautions

As well as protecting the skin with a good quality sunscreen, even on cloudy days, there are several precautions you can take to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Wearing protective clothing and eye protection, especially in winter, can greatly help to prevent damage to the skin.

If you need guidance, expert dermatologist Dr Juliet Williams will discuss with you the best course of action. If you do have a precancerous lesion and it is caught early, then it might be possible to treat it with Cryotherapy, or creams. Alternatively, you may need a skin excision to be performed on the area under local anaesthetic. If necessary, Dr Williams can arrange a sample biopsy to help determine the best course of treatment.

If you are concerned that you may have a precancerous lesion, book an appointment with Dr Juliet Williams by calling 01483 555 907 or email info@drjulietwilliams.co.uk .