Voluntary Action Calderdale and Public Health have put out the following information and advice about Skin Cancer, an issue that confronts many older people. It’s well worth a read whether it affects you directly or if you have an elderly friend or relative who may be affected. And, with Summer just starting, the advice on avoiding too much sun is particularly topical.
About skin cancer
Skin cancer is very common in England. There are two main types of skin cancer: the more common but less serious non-melanoma, and malignant melanoma, often just called melanoma.
Most people diagnosed with skin cancer are over 50, but anyone can develop skin cancer. You’re more likely to get it if you have any of the following:
- lots of moles or freckles
- fair skin that burns easily
- red or fair hair
- light-coloured eyes
- a history of sunburn
- a personal or family history of skin cancer
Could it be cancer?
Changes to a mole or freckle can be a sign of skin cancer, which is why it’s so important to see your doctor straight away. Early detection makes it easier to treat. Seeing your doctor could save your life.
What do I look for?
The most common sign of skin cancer is a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin. It’s important to know your skin and what it looks like normally so you notice any unusual or persistent changes. Use a mirror, or ask your partner or a friend to check the areas of your skin that you can’t see.
Are there other symptoms of skin cancer?
A change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin is a common sign of skin cancer, but there are also other signs to be aware of, including:
- a new growth or sore that doesn’t heal
- a spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts
- a mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs
If you notice any of these signs, see your GP. If you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.
Reduce your risk
Most skin cancers are caused by too much sun. You shouldn’t avoid the sun completely, as it is an important source of vitamin D.
However, to reduce the risk of skin cancer, avoid sunburn by:
- spending time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest, usually between 11am and 3pm, from March to October
- covering up with clothes that protect you from the sun
- wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and a high star rating
Even if it is cool or cloudy, you could burn in the middle of the day in summer. It’s also possible to burn at other times of the day and year.
Take extra care when in sunnier climates – you may burn quickly, even when it isn’t hot.
Sunbeds and sunlamps can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Public Health England recommends that you don’t use them, except for medical reasons.
Other ways to reduce your risk
A healthy lifestyle can help you reduce your risk of skin cancer. Some ways to stay healthy are:
- stop smoking – if you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit. There’s plenty of support available from the NHS. Visit nhs.uk/smokefree or call 0300 123 1044. Be 4 times more likely to quit with the help of Yorkshire Smokefree Calderdale at http://calderdale.yorkshiresmokefree.nhs.uk/ or call 0800 612 0011 from any landline or 0330 660 1166 from most mobiles.
- look after yourself – try to maintain a healthy weight and keep active. Swimming, cycling, dancing, walking – the more you can do, the better. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet too, with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/healthy-eating/Pages/Healthyeating.aspx for general live well information about healthy eating and http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness/Pages/Fitnesshome.aspx for helpful health and fitness information.
- cut down on alcohol – drinking too much alcohol can lead to a number of health problems. By drinking less, you’ll reduce your health risks. Visit http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Alcoholhome.aspx for general live well information about drinking and alcohol
For more information on how to reduce your risk of cancer, visit nhs.uk/reduce-your-risk
If you notice any unusual or persistent changes to your skin, go to your doctor. Chances are it’s nothing serious, but if it’s skin cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable. Call your GP today.
Sources of local support
The Macmillan Unit
@ Calderdale Royal Hospital, Salterhebble, Halifax, HX3 0PW
Created for the people of Calderdale, Huddersfield and surrounding areas, who are affected by cancer or other life limiting illnesses. The centre offers a comfortable and relaxing setting for you to discuss your needs and concerns confidentially. Access to specialist cancer care nurses and support from trained volunteers. Information on all aspects of living with cancer and other life limiting illnesses.
Telephone: 01422 222709
Telephone Macmillan: 0808 808 00 00
Email Macmillan: Online contact form
@Todmorden Central Methodist Church,Union Street, OL14 5AW
Living Well is for women from Calderdale and all surrounding areas with, or who have had cancer. It offers you the opportunity to take time out, come and talk to others, find useful information and approaches to help you in your recovery.
Telephone: 07794 688 180
Here in Calderdale, Calderdale & Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) funds a specific welfare benefits service for people affected by cancer. This service is delivered by Calderdale D.A.R.T.
If anyone wishes to seek advice or make a referral to the Cancer Support Service; you can do so by….
Telephone: 01422 346040.
Choices your health, your choices http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx
Hundreds of health conditions explained at NHS
and for information on skin cancer
British Skin Foundation
The British Association of Dermatologists
Cancer Research UK