The dangers of exposure to the sun are still understated and tend to drop away from people's minds when the summer is hot and the sun is high and pleasurable. A lot of damage to the skin can be caused within the first 20 years of a persons life. In childhood where parents are either not aware of the dangers to their children or for whatever reason protection is lacking. Through teenage years, teenagers, parents, peers and teachers must be aware of the same and ever increasing dangers of sun exposure and as young adults, a person can become more proactive about their skin care. Into full on adulthood awareness may give way to the desire to get a new fresh tan along with their peers on holiday for example or maintain their appearance with a quick session at the tanning salon.
Slow to show, quick to spread
Problems arising from Sun damage may take years to become visible and may not include any painful or ill effects to a persons health, making a diagnosis of Skin Cancer all the more confusing and emotional.
Melanoma seems to be the most worrying form of Skin Cancers, cases of which are on the increase and there may be more deaths from Melanoma in the UK than in Australia. It is worrying because if left undected it can grow so thick that it starts traveling around the body, evidence of which is known as "Mets". Melanoma affects the pigment of the skin and forms darkend brown or red moles or spots with unregular and ragged borders, these moles or spots may not appear in the region of a sunburn. Burning in the sun significantly increases the risk of developing Melanoma. Walking out of the house to spend a day in the sun without Sun protection such as sunscreen SPF 15 or higher, or suitable clothing can vastly increase the chance of sunburn if your risk factors are high, such as having light hair and pale skin.
Weather Reports and Timings
Some weather broadcasters, such as the BBC and Met Office in the UK broadcast and make availble "Sun Index" levels which help give time estimates on how long it will take for a persons skin to burn on that particular day. Minutes can roughly be linked with the number given which I think is given on a scale of 1 to 10. It is advisable to stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 11:00 (11am) and 15:00 (3pm) when the sun is at it's strongest.
The Sun Smart site is a good source of information to inform other people of the dangers of the sun. But if you are reading this then maybe that information has come too late in the day, awareness of your own skin should be a high priority.
Professionals will jump right in on suspect moles or spots to intervene and find out more about a persons circumstance, the speed of which can be very worrying for the person involved and also to their friends and families. Going through this with little information, like I have, can be very worrying but the professional staff are at hand to do everything they can. Melanoma is quickley becoming the commonest form of Skin Cancer and due to the risks involved I would seriously advise anyone who may have doubts about any mole or brown spot to seek professional medical advice as soon as possible and monitor the situation.
Prevention is always better than cure, more needs to be done on the prevention side, such as mandatory placment of sun screen and sun protection policies in schools. Where prevention is too late then we must focus on support, understanding and guidance and I hope this journal will be one place where collectivly we can create a small web of support.