It’s the month of May, which is very welcome in Scotland, where the winters are long and the sun is often hiding. It’s easy to get caught up in the sunshine, but protecting your skin against the harmful rays of the sun is vital to your health.
May also marks Skin Cancer Awareness Month in many countries around the world. We’d like to take this opportunity to help inform our clients about sun safety and how to lessen their risk of skin cancer. According to the British Skin Foundation, at least 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, killing 2,500 people in the UK annually.
There are many different types of skin cancer, including melanoma and non-melanoma types.
Type: Basal cell skin cancer
Basal cell skin cancer is the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer. It develops from basal cells, which are found in the epidermis’ deepest layer of skin and near the hair follicle. This type of skin cancer affects middle or older-aged people and usually develops on parts of the body most frequently exposed to the sun. Once you’ve had this type of skin cancer, you’re at higher risk of getting it again. Basal cell skin cancer isn’t likely to spread to other parts of your body or cause other cancers.
Type: Squamous cell skin cancer
Squamous cell skin cancer grows faster than basal cell skin cancer, but is less common. It also usually appears in areas on the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, and can even develop in scarred skin, including previously sunburnt skin.
Other rare types of non-melanoma skin cancer include:
- Merkel cell carcinoma is more likely to develop in older people who have had long-term sun exposure or those with a weakened immune system.
- Kaposi’s sarcoma beings in the cells in the lining of skin’s blood vessels. Although it is frequently associated with HIV, it can happen in those without HIV.
- T cell lymphoma of the skin is a type of non Hodgkin lymphoma that affects the skin and can look like eczema or psoriasis in its early stages.
- Bowen’s disease can appear anywhere on the skin, but it is frequently found on the lower leg, commonly in older women. If this disease is not treated it can turn into squamous cell skin cancer (described above).
Symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer
- Spots or sores
- Red patches
Although graphic, these photos of skin cancer from Cancer Research UK are helpful in showing what types of non-melanoma skin cancers look like.
Type: Melanoma skin cancer
Melanoma is most likely the skin cancer you’ve heard the most about. Each year, nearly 14,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with melanoma. In the last 10 years, melanoma cases have increased by 50 per cent. It is the 5th most common cancer in the UK overall.
Melanoma has many different types and develops from skin cells called melanocytes, which are found between the dermis and epidermis, and are responsible for giving skin its natural colour. Melanocytes create melanin, which helps protect your body from UV radiation from the sun.
9 Melanoma Risk Factors
- Age: as you get older, your risk of melanoma increases.
- UV light: radiation from the sun or sunbeds increase your risk of developing melanoma.
- Skin colour: fair-skinned and freckled people have a higher risk of getting diagnosed with melanoma because they have less natural protection from melanin than those with dark skin.
- Infrequent time in the sun: since the sun is not generally very strong in the UK, those living here do not regularly get exposed to the sun, except for on holiday or occasional hot weather. When they do, they are more likely to spend longer times in the sun than they are used to, causing high levels of damage in short periods of time.
- Number of overall sunburns: the more sunburns you have had in your lifetime heightens your risk for melanoma.
- Sunbeds: if you have ever used a sunbed your risk for melanoma is heightened, especially if you used one before you turn 35.
- Moles: Although having moles on your body does not mean you will definitely get melanoma, it does make your risk for melanoma higher.
- Family history: you are at higher risk for melanoma if you’ve had a close family member diagnosed.
- Previously diagnosed cancer: those people who have had melanoma, non-melanoma or other types of cancer have a higher risk of getting diagnosed with melanoma.
How to Decrease Your Risk of Skin Cancer
- Perform self-skin exams, or have a doctor check your skin.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and reapply every two hours.
- Cover your skin and eyes with clothing, hats and sunglasses.
- Seek shade when outside for long periods of time.
- Never use sunbeds. Instead, treat yourself to an expert sunless tan at The Retreat! Check out our May offer.
The Retreat’s 5 Favourite SPF and Sun-free Products
- bareMinerals bareSkin Sheer Sun
- ESPA Optimal Skin ProDefence SPF15
- Fake Bake Flawless Darker Self-Tan Lotion
- bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation SPF20
- ESPA Naturally Radiant Gradual Tan