Skin cancer awareness month 2022

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Whether you are directly affected by skin cancer, or you just want to find out more, we have information that can help. 


For Skin Cancer Awareness Month we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about skin cancer.


Dominic skin cancer case study for skin cancer awareness month page
Dominic skin cancer case study for skin cancer awareness month page

Skin cancer frequently asked questions

  • What are the different types of skin cancer?

    There are three main types of skin cancer:

    • basal cell carcinoma (BCCs)
    • squamous cell carcinoma (SCCs)
    • melanoma.
    BCCs and SCCs are different from melanoma. They are called non-melanoma skin cancers and are more common than melanoma. We have separate information about melanoma.

     

  • What is the main cause of skin cancer and am I at risk?

    Most skin cancers are caused by skin damage that happens from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. The damage can happen from sun exposure over a long period of time or from a history of getting sunburnt, but even people who have never experienced sunburn are still risk.  Exposure to UV light from sunbeds and sun lamps also damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.

    People with a history of sunburn or overexposure to the sun in childhood also have a greater risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. All types of skin are at risk of sun damage and skin cancer. But fair-skinned people who tend to burn easily or go red or freckle in the sun are most at risk of developing skin cancer. People with darker skin have a lower risk of developing skin cancer. But they still have a risk. It is important for everyone to follow skin protection advice and to check their skin regularly, including areas that don’t get sun exposure.

    If you are worried, we have more information about causes and risk factors of non-melanoma skin cancer and causes and risk factors of melanoma.

  • Does melanin prevent skin cancer?

    People with darker skin have a lower risk of developing skin cancer. This is because they have more melanin in their skin, which acts as a protective layer. This includes a risk of melanoma in in areas that don’t have sun exposure, such as the palms, soles of the feet or under the nails. Melanoma is also often diagnosed later in people with darker skin. It is important for everyone to follow sun protection advice and to check their skin regularly, including areas that don’t get sun exposure.

  • What can I do to prevent skin cancer?

    The best protection is to cover up and be safe in the sun. Wear a hat and long sleeves. It’s important to check your skin regularly for any changes.

    We have more information about preventing skin cancer.

  • How can I be safe in the sun?

    • Always use 5* UVA rated sun protection. Soltan and Macmillan recommend 5* UVA with at least an SPF 30.
    • Drink plenty of water. Cover up with a hat and long sleeves.
    • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
    • Wear UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes.
    • Don’t forget to apply sun cream to those easy to miss places - lips, tops of ears, back of neck, feet and scalp.
    • Limit your time in the sun and stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm.
    • Do not let your skin go red or burn.
    • Protection can rub off when it comes into contact with sand, water, towels or sweat, so you should reapply every two hours.
    • Do not use a sunbed or sunlamp. If it is important for you to look tanned, use fake tan lotions or sprays.

     

  • How should I properly apply sun cream?

     

    • Many people do not use enough sun cream. Experts say an average-sized adult needs at least 6 to 8 teaspoons of lotion to give the SPF coverage it says on the bottle.
    • Make sure you apply to clean and dry skin.
    • Apply sun cream about 20-30 minutes before you go out into the sun. Ideally do this before you get dressed for the day. This ensures you don’t miss any areas and also makes sure it doesn’t get on your clothes.
    • Reapply every 2 hours, or immediately after swimming, towelling dry or if you’ve been sweating a lot.

    Top tip: Make sure your sun cream is not out of date. Most sun creams have a shelf life of two years. If the product is seeping liquid or smells ‘off’, it should be replaced.

  • How much SPF do I need?

    Soltan and Macmillan recommend 5* UVA with at least an SPF 30. Always use 5* UVA rated sun protection. Follow the instructions on the bottle and re-apply as recommended, particularly after swimming. Remember to apply sun cream on and behind your ears.

  • What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

    Different types of skin cancer can vary in how they look. Skin cancer can appear anywhere on your body but is most likely to occur on skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the face and neck. Most commonly, non-melanoma skin cancer can appear as:

    • smooth and pearly-white
    • waxy
    • a firm, red lump or may look sunken in the middle
    • a pearly brown or black lump if you have darker skin
    • a flat, red spot that is scaly and crusty a pale non-healing scar.

    Look out for areas of skin that never completely heal, feel itchy and bleed sometimes, develop a crust or scab or develop into a painless ulcer.

    We have more information about the signs and symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer.

    Melanomas either start with a new, abnormal-looking mole in normal-looking skin. This usually looks like a dark area or a new mole that changes over weeks or months. Or they develop from a mole that you already have. There is a checklist that can help you check of changed in a mole or normal looking skin that might be melanoma, called the ABCDE list.

    We have more information about the signs and symptoms of melanoma.

  • What should I do if I notice skin changes?

    If you notice anything unusual on any area of your skin, make an appointment to show it to your GP straightaway. It might help to take a photograph of anything unusual, so you can check for any changes. 

    It can be more difficult to notice changes if you have darker skin. But if you notice any skin changes always see your GP. Make sure you check your skin all over, including the palms, soles of the feet or under the nails.

    Boots offer a Mole Scanning Service provides you with an assessment of moles and pigmented lesions you’re worried about, and can help to identify any that might need further investigation.

Our Sun Safety Partner for 2022

We’re proudly partnering with Soltan, as our official Sun Safety Partner, to ensure everyone has access to the information and protection they need to stay safe in the sun. Our partnership also helps raise funds to deliver services needed by people living with cancer, including skin cancer.

Support for people living with skin cancer

Information on our website
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Support groups