Skin cancer: How to reduce your risk of serious skin issues according to an expert

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When the sun eventually makes its return, Britons are warned about its harmful effect on the skin due to the prolonged period spent indoors. Dr Firas Al-Niami, expert dermatologist at sk:n spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk to discuss.

Melanoma, also known as malignant melanoma, is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.

Melanomas are less common than non-melanoma skin cancers, but they are one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, according to the British Skin Foundation.  

They can develop from existing moles, but they more often appear as new marks on the skin, the charity says.

This can appear anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.

According to Cancer Research statistics, the highest rates of melanoma skin cancer are among older people.

However, it also occurs relatively frequently at younger ages – in contrast to most cancer types.

Incidence rates increase steadily in men and women from around age 20 to 24 upwards, with a significantly higher average number of new cases in younger women.

The sun is shining (most of the time) and we’re all spending more time outside, catching up with friends, enjoying some outdoor exercise or soaking up the sun in our local beer garden, said Dr Al-Niami.

She continued: “However, as the sun starts to warm up it’s important to make sure we’re prepared and keep our skin covered and protected.

“Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, but if you’re careful, the risk of developing the disease can be dramatically reduced.”

When asked about the common mistakes people make when applying sun protection, Dr Al-Niami stressed the importance of applying it in the common areas.

She said: “The most common areas that people neglect when applying SPF protection are the backs of the hands, ears and in cases of baldness, the scalp.

“All of which are common areas for skin damage and skin cancer.

“It’s crucial that we’re not missing these areas and we cover all our exposed skin.

“There are spray SPF sunscreens that can help reach those blind spot areas such as the ears, or you can ask a friend to apply it for you.

“When it comes to the scalp, SPF protection is a must for areas not covered with a thick layer of hair.

“A brimmed hat is also a great solution, especially for those people with a history of skin damage or who are at risk of skin cancer.”

“It’s essential to protect the skin from high levels of UV radiation, and don’t forget, UVA waves can still penetrate through windows – even in winter – so it’s advisable to keep protected all day long.

“I would recommend using sunscreen with adequate SPF protection (minimum factor 30) which will need to be topped up after four hours, if continuously exposing the skin to sunlight throughout the day.

“I would also advise seeking the shade regularly, wearing light clothing and avoiding the peak sun hours (between 12-3pm) to help decrease the overall exposure.

“Skin cancer has a strong association to UV light and sun exposure, particularly in fair skinned individuals. 

“After a year of lockdown, it is expected that many people will indulge in the freedom to travel and be outdoors, potentially exposing themselves to high UV rays, which consequently increase the risk for skin cancer.”
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