May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and as the weather across the UK heats up, Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance has joined forces with Macmillan, SKCIN and MKM Building Supplies to raise awareness of skin cancer and the importance of those working outdoors protecting themselves.
Skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the UK with over 220,000 cases diagnosed annually and that number continues to rise. Outdoor workers receive five to 10 times more sun exposure and as a result are, on average at 60% greater risk of developing skin cancer. However, with simple precautions such as covering up with clothing and wearing sunscreen, this risk can be significantly reduced.
Throughout May, Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance, Macmillan and SKCIN, will be hosting skin cancer awareness information stalls in several MKM Building Supplies stores to raise awareness of the importance of outdoor workers protecting themselves, as well as what to look for when it comes to skin cancer signs and symptoms.
Dr Dan Cottingham, Cancer Research UK GP Lead, Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance, said: “You don’t have to be exposed to the sun for lengthy periods and it doesn’t have to be a clear and sunny day for the sun’s rays to damage your skin. Construction workers face all kinds of weather and just like they would don their high viz, waterproof jackets to protect themselves from the elements in winter, it’s equally important that they protect themselves from the harmful and powerful UV rays of the sun.”
Heather Lysiak, Macmillan Engagement Lead for Humber and North Yorkshire, added: “Over 90% of skin cancers are preventable by adopting protective approaches to sun exposure. This is why we are working together to raise awareness to those working in the outdoor industry.
“Outdoor workers are out in the elements year-round and need to be aware of the risk and the steps they can take to protect themselves. We hope that by taking the information direct to the workforce we can help encourage people to make simple changes that might just save their lives.”
“Rachel Constable Head of Environment, Social and Governance at MKM said: “When we were approached to work with Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance, we immediately took the opportunity. Learning how much more at risk those working outdoors are of skin cancer was staggering, and we knew it was important to play a role in educating our teams and customers. We are looking forward to hosting the stalls and hope we can help to make a difference and encourage people to take positive actions to reduce their risks of developing skin cancer.”
SKCIN also offers the national Sun Safe Workplaces accreditation programme. Marie Tudor, CEO said: “Solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is responsible for 90% of all skin cancer cases. This puts outdoor workers in one of the highest risk groups for skin cancer. Employers of outdoor workers have a legal obligation to assess the level of risk imposed to their workers, implement a sun protection policy and provide employees with information, instruction and training.
“Our Sun Safe Workplaces accreditation programme has been specifically developed to provide employers and HSRs with all the tools and resources they need to engage, educate, empower and equip their workers and provide clear evidence of their commitment to addressing these legal obligations.”
However, it’s not just outdoor workers that are at risk of developing skin cancer. Anyone, spending any length of time outdoors needs to understand the risks and how to protect themselves.
When the UV Index reaches three and above, SKCIN recommends the following five S approach to five-star sun protection that should be used in combination to prevent sun damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Slip on clothing – the first line of defence against UV rays
- Slop on SPF 30+ UVA sunscreen and reapply every two hours
- Slap on a wide brimmed had to protect the scalp and shade the face and neck
- Slide on UV protective sunglasses to protect the eyes
- Shade – seek shade when possible, particularly between 11am and 3pm when UV is at its strongest.
Even after taking precautions, it’s important to still know your skin and to be able to notice changes as they happen. Skin cancer can look different from one person to another. Dr Cottingham explained: “If you have an area of skin that’s sore, itchy, hurts, bleeds, crusts or scabs for four weeks or more, this could be a sign of skin cancer and it’s important to get this checked by your GP as soon as possible. Other things to look for include any small lumps that look unusual or a change to the size or shape of a mole or freckle.
“I advise checking your skin on a regular basis and if there’s something you’re not sure about, seek advice. It’s always better to be safe and cautious as the earlier cancer is detected the easier it can be to treat.”
As part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance will also be running several online awareness sessions for people to find out more about skin cancer and what to look for. The sessions are free and open to anyone from the Humber and North Yorkshire area. To book a place visit the Cancer Alliance Eventbrite page.
Another handy way of detecting potential abnormalities is to download the SKCIN APP. The app provides users with a wealth of information, images, self-management tools and features to promote both the prevention and early detection of skin cancer, enabling you to confidently take charge of your skin health and surveillance.