A top Glasgow consultant is calling for people across the city to cover up and stay safe during the sunny summer months.
Dr Robert Herd, consultant dermatologist at the city's Western Infirmary, is stressing to Glaswegians the importance of minimising skin damage during National Skin Cancer Awareness Month (June 2004).
Dr Herd, of North Glasgow University Hospitals Division, explains: "Although research has shown that some people may be more vulnerable to skin cancers, the main cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to strong sunlight, and those with fairer skin are much more vulnerable."
Doctors therefore advise that people should not spend too long in the sun and to cover up wherever possible. "If someone has a large number of moles or a family history of cancer, they should be especially careful, " advises Dr Herd.
Changes to look out for include any variations in a mole, perhaps an increase in size, a change in shape or its border becoming ragged or irregular.
"If a growing mole becomes larger than the flat end of a pencil, then I would certainly advise consulting a doctor," Dr Herd says. "In fact, I would encourage anyone with any concerns to contact their GP for further advice."
Retired journalist Ian MacNicol, from Glasgow, only discovered he had skin cancer after a nurse friend noticed a mole on his left forearm and urged him to see his doctor about it. It turned out to be a melanoma. Within weeks he had the mole removed, a skin graft and another operation after it was discovered the cancer had spread to the lymph glands in the armpit.
Mr MacNicol said: "With hindsight I now know the mole had grown, but I saw it every day, and it never gave me any trouble. If I had known that a mole bigger than six millimetres could be malignant I would probably have gone to see my GP a lot earlier."
There are a wide variety of treatments used to tackle skin cancer. Treatment depends on the type and how far it has spread, if at all.
"Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK," explains Dr Herd. "But the majority is not life-threatening and being aware of the danger signs can help you diagnose any problem before it becomes more serious."
For further information please contact Andrea Thomson on 0141 201 3299 or e-mail [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
· It is believed that UV radiation in sunlight brings about subtle cell damage which may in turn lead to cancerous changes.
· In terms of symptoms to look out for, experts warn patients to be especially aware of any changes in mole appearance or new growths or sores which do not appear to heal.
· Melanoma, although relatively rare, accounts for the vast majority of deaths from skin cancer – 6000 cases a year in the UK. It tends to spread more rapidly through the bloodstream than the other two types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
· Use of suntan lotion has not yet been proven to protect the skin against melanoma.