Rates of skin cancer are on the increase, with over 100,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in the UK each year.
In the North East, 620 people are diagnosed each year with malignant melanoma.
Experts say 86% of all cases are preventable if people stop over-exposing themselves to the sun and allowing their skin to burn.
Non-melanoma skin cancer often develops on areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to the sun - face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.
The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is:
Usually the appearance of a discoloured patch on the skin.
It persists slowly, progressing over months or sometimes years.
They are usually red, firm or flat and scaly.
The two common types of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis and makes up about 75% of skin cancers.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and makes up about 20% of skin cancers.
Skin cancer is caused by:
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which comes from the sun. It also comes from artificial tanning sunbeds and sunlamps.
Other factors that may increase chances of developing non-melanoma skin cancer include:
- a previous non-melanoma skin cancer
- a family history of skin cancer
- pale skin that burns easily
- a large number of moles or freckles
- a co-existing medical condition that suppresses your immune system
- medication that suppresses your immune system
The advice is to wear sunscreen whenever we are exposed to the sun, whether on the beach or even just working outside.
It's also best to remain in the shade if possible, and wear appropriate clothing.
Experts say that as a nation we do not apply sunscreen often enough, with a high enough sun protection factor - or SPF - and UVA protection rating.
Although sunscreen doesn't provide 100% protection from sun damage, it is very useful for protecting parts of skin that cannot be kept under the shade.
So what are the difference UV rays and all the other jargon?
- UVA: Rays that penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, causing cell damage and premature skin ageing. They account for up to 95% of the solar UV radiation
- UVB: Rays that hit the top layer of the skin and are responsible for burning, tanning, and skin damage
- BROAD SPECTRUM: Sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
Here's some additional advice:
Cancer Research UK recommend buying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 - to give UVB protection - and a high star rating with at least four stars - to give a UVA protection.
A minimum of SPF30 on the body protects against 97% of UVB rays. Ideally a minimum of SPF50 should be applied on the face, which protects against 98% of UVB rays.
Even sunscreens that claim to be 'water resistant' or 'waterproof' should be re-applied after going in water - especially if you are towelled dry.
After applying, you should wait at least 30 minutes before going into the sun and don’t be tempted to spend longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen. Remember to re-apply the sunscreen every two hours.
More information can be found at the following websites: