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Cover up to reduce cancer risks

Cover Up Mate

Cornwall’s surfers, builders, farmers and lifeguards are among men who are being urged to protect themselves against the sun, to reduce the risk of skin cancer. 

After seeing temperatures soar in recent days and the mercury hit the mid-twenties in recent days, the NHS Cover Up, Mate campaign is calling on men who spend a lot of time outdoors to be a friend to their skin and slap on the sunscreen. 

The campaign, which launched earlier this week, is alsocalling out to gardeners and sports-players - who often don’t use sun cream.

Backing the campaign are businesses and organisations linked to the outdoor work industries including the National Farmers Union, the Met Office, and the building supplies retailer Jewson. 

Research has shown that men are a particular focus as they are much less likely than women to reach for the sunscreen.

Latest statistics from Cancer Research show that since the late 1970s, skin cancer incidence rates have more than quadrupled (360% increase) in Great Britain. The increase is larger in males where rates have increased more than six-fold (544% increase), than in females where rates have more than tripled (263% increase).

Meanwhile Public Health England figures show that in the South West there was a 31.9% rise in incidence of malignant melanoma between 2009 and 2014, from 1,444 cases to 1,906 cases. There was also a 14.5% rise in mortality from malignant melanoma, from 248 deaths in 2009 to 284 deaths in 2014.

From 2005 to 2014 the number of cases of skin cancer among men in Cornwall has almost doubled compared to the number incidents of skin cancer among women from the county.

Skin cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer. Contrary to popular believe a tan is not a sign of health but a sign of skin damage and damaged skin offers less protection from the sun. UVA and UVB rays not only expose the skin to the risk of cancer, but it can also cause long-term damage and premature ageing of the skin. 

Dr Caroline Court, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly’s Interim Director of Public Health, said:“We live in a part of the country where all of us spend a greater amount of time outdoors and the statistics show that men are less likely to think about looking after their skin.

“We know that skin cancer in men is increasing at a faster rate than it is for women and that men who work outdoors are at greater risk of skin cancer but we also know that they will often not stop to apply sunscreen or cover-up their skin.

“They need to be mindful of the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays whether they are tiling a roof, enjoying a surf with their mates or biking the coast path.

“We’re asking men to think long term, to be there for their families and take the risk of skin cancer seriously. Putting sunscreen on exposed skin or wearing light-weight clothing and a hat will protect you, and it’s much better to prevent than cure.” 

Top sun safe tips include:

  • Use at least factor 15 sunscreen in the sun and use plenty of it
  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin – don’t forget your neck and ears and your head if you have thinning or no hair
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat
  • Take particular care if have fair skin, moles or freckles, red or fair hair, or light-coloured eyes. 

Official NHS Choices advice on sun safety can be found here.