Remember to cover up, mate!

Thursday, 10 August, 2017

We are supporting NHS England South’s skin cancer awareness campaign, to highlight the need for people to wear sun cream when working outdoors.

The ‘Cover Up, Mate’ campaign targets male agricultural and construction workers, gardeners and sports-players because of their prolonged exposure to the sun.

Research indicates that men are worse at protecting themselves from the sun. A YouGov survey, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, found that more than 50 per cent more men than women forget to protect their skin and, worryingly, 75 per cent more men than women are not worried about getting sunburnt.

Public Health England statistics show that between 2005 and 2014, incidence of malignant melanoma in men rose by 45.3% in the South West. Deaths by malignant melanoma in this time also rose by 22.4% in the South West.

Associate Specialist in Dermatology at North Bristol NHS Trust, Katherine Finucane said: “It is important to cover up in the sun - especially if you work outside - as skin damage from the sun does not only happen when sunbathing. Sun damage adds up over a lifetime of work, and covering up can reduce the risk of getting skin cancer.

“This campaign is an important platform for providing information about the prevention of skin cancer and is supported by the dermatology team at NBT.”

A recent Imperial College study, commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) estimated that construction workers make up the highest number of deaths (44%) caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun at work in Britain, followed by agriculture workers (23%).

Cover Up, Mate infographic

A survey carried out by Jewson revealed that just over a third of the construction workers surveyed said they never apply their own sun cream when working outdoors on a sunny day. This compares to only seven per cent who never apply sun cream when on holiday abroad.

Worryingly, more than half of respondents said they had been sun burnt in the past two years. Being sunburnt just once every two years triples the risk of skin cancer.

NHS England South West Medical Director, Caroline Gamlin, said: “Attitudes have already changed a lot since the days of “sun’s out, shirts off.

“But skin cancer deaths are rising, especially in men who work outdoors, so it’s crucial to cover up from the sun – not just for yourself but also your family.”

Cancer Research stats show that:
• A tan is a sign of skin damage – not health – and may offer only factor 3 protection.
• getting painful sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer;
• you're at higher risk of skin cancer if you have fair skin, moles or freckles, red or fair hair, or light-coloured eyes; and
• the highest risk months in the UK are May to September when UV rates are higher.

Official NHS advice on staying safe in the sun is:

• spend time in the shade if you can
• make sure you never burn
• cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
• use at least factor 15 sunscreen

The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat, so see your GP as soon as possible if any moles or freckles change size or shape.