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  1. ITV Report

Sunscreen and the UK's most common cancer

86% of skin cancer cases in the UK have been deemed preventable. Photo: ITV West Country
  • 'How Safe is a Sun Tan?' will be airing on ITV's Tonight programme tonight, Thursday 17 August at 7.30pm.

Over 100,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year.

In the south west, rates of skin cancer are on the increase, with 300 people dying from it and 1,800 people being diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

Experts say 86% of cases are preventable if people stopped over exposing themselves to the sun and burning.

In the region, every year:

  • Around 165 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Gloucestershire
  • Around 145 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Wiltshire
  • Around 75 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Bristol
  • Around 350 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Devon
  • Around 195 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Somerset
  • Around 220 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Cornwall.

Statistics from Cancer Research UK.

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 progresses over months or sometimes years. That is the cancer tumour.

They are usually red, firm or flat and scaly.

The two common types of skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – it starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis and makes up about 75% of skin cancers
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – it 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 light, particularly from the sun. Credit: ITV West Country

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
86%
of cases are preventable if people stopped over exposing themselves to the sun and burning.

Here's some advice from Dermatologist, Dr David de Barker:

People are advised to wear sunscreen whenever they are exposed to the sun, whether on the beach, or even just working outside.

They are also advised to remain in the shade if possible, and wear appropriate clothing.

Experts say that as a nation we do not apply sunscreen often enough, or with a high enough sun protection factor - or SPF.

Although it doesn't provide 100% complete 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 sin 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.
100,000
cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year.

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 reapplied 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 on the following websites:

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