Doctor shares 8 top tips to minimise the risk of skin cancer during summer

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Repeated sunburns greatly increase the risk of skin cancer, which GP Dr Nikita Patel wants to protect people from as much as possible.

“Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the DNA in skin cells,” said Dr Patel.

“This can result in wrinkles, age spots and can also create genetic mutations that lead to skin cancer.”

Dr Patel added that sunlamps and tanning beds are just as risky as repeated exposure to natural sunlight.

Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin exposed to UV radiation, such as the scalp, lips, and hands.

Use the ABCDE checklist when looking at any new or pre-existing moles.

  • A – Asymmetry – Does the mole have an irregular shape?
  • B – Border – Is this border irregular or jagged?
  • C – Colour – is the colour uneven?
  • D – Diameter – is the mole larger than a pea?
  • E – Evolving – has the mole changed in any of these areas over the past few weeks or months?

“Other things to consider are if a mole has suddenly changed – has it started oozing or bleeding?” Dr Patel said.

“Has it started to become itchy or painful? These are all good reasons to seek an opinion from your GP.”

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There are certain misconceptions about skin cancer that Dr Patel wanted to bust.

There can be thoughts, such as “it won’t happen to me”, or “I have dark skin, so I probably won’t get it”.

Dr Patel said: “It’s important for everyone, regardless of skin type, to protect themselves from UV rays all year round.”

To minimise the risk of skin cancer, Dr Patel advised:

  • Avoid tanning and don’t get sunburnt
  • Wear sensible clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day (10am to 4pm)
  • Don’t assume that because it’s cloudy you can’t get burnt
  • Check your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer.

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Other misconceptions include believing skin cancer only happens to older people, or that if you don’t have moles you won’t be affected – both aren’t true.

There’s also the false belief that it can easily be treated with small surgeries.

While skin cancer can be treatable, cancer is still a serious disease to contend with.

GP Dr Nikita Patel is an Associate Medical Director at Vitality.

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