Skin Examination and Sun Protection Advice

Information and advice

Your lesion has been examined by a consultant using a dermatoscope, a special instrument which magnifies the lesion. Your lesion does not appear to be of any concern today.

If your lesion changes shape, size or colour in the future, please go back to your GP for assessment and if necessary the GP will refer you back to us. In the event of your being re-referred, we will re-examine the lesion using the dermatoscope and if you have had photographs taken at your last appointment, these will be compared to look for any changes.

Report any lesions that change or unusual skin growths promptly to your doctor.

How to be safe in the sun

For most people, being in the sunshine is pleasurable but there are consequences, especially if you are fair skinned. Sunscreen does not offer total protection from sunrays and using it is only one way to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Remember the SunSmart Code:

  • Spend time in the shade between 11-3
  • Make sure you never burn
  • Aim to cover up with a T-shirt, hat and UV sunglasses
  • Remember to take extra care with children
  • Then use sunscreen (SPF factor 30+)

For further details on how to be safe in the sun:

  • Avoid the sun when at its height (usually 11am-3pm).
  • Take care never to burn.
  • Use shade where possible, i.e. trees, umbrellas and shelters.
  • Take extra special care of babies and children’s delicate skin.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Use a UV protective lip balm.
  • Cover up with tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing, long sleeves, trousers, skirts.
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) on exposed skin. Reapply approximately every 2 hours, even on cloudy days.
  • Swimming and sweating reduces the effectiveness of sunscreen, so remember to reapply after getting wet or exercising.
  • Avoid using sunbeds or tanning lamps.
  • Check your skin regularly once a month and report any unusual changes to your doctor without delay.
  • There is more UV at high altitudes and near the equator.
  • UV penetrates thin cloud and thin clothes. It will also reach your skin through shallow water.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of skin cancer.
  • Teach children about sun protection early. Much of the harm we do to ourselves happens in childhood or in our teenage years.

What are the hazards of sun exposure?

Sunburn

The most obvious is sunburn, which usually begins several hours after a dose of sunlight that your skin cannot cope with. Your skin reddens, becomes sore and may even blister. The burning is due to the ultraviolet component of the sun’s rays,
particularly the short UVB rays.

Ageing

Even if you do not burn, the ultraviolet rays can gradually damage your skin. Most of the changes we put down to ageing are in fact due to the effects of sun exposure when we were younger. These include wrinkles, loss of elasticity, thread veins, brown blotches, dryness and rough patches. You will see these changes mainly on the face, backs of the hands and forearms – all the places that receive the most sunlight.

Skin cancer

As well as these ‘ageing’ changes, your previous sun exposure is the most common cause of skin cancers. Some of these, especially melanoma, can be fatal.

Other problems

Some commonly used medicines can make you more sensitive to the burning effects of sunshine. If you believe this may be happening to you, you should consult your doctor. There are a number of skin diseases which happen because of the sun’s rays, or are made worse by sunshine.

Who is most at risk of sun damage to the skin?

  • Babies
  • Anyone who burns easily – usually those with pale skin, freckles, blonde or red hair and blue eyes
  • People with a large number of moles
  • Anyone on immunosuppressant medication
  • People who work outdoors in the sunshine

The ABCDSs of Melanoma

Most moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are harmless, but not always. They can be a sign of melanoma which is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. However, when detected early, melanoma is highly treatable. You can identify the warning signs of melanoma by looking for the following:

A – Asymmetry

Most melanomas are asymmetrical, so if you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t look the same.

Asymetrical melanoma

B – Border

Melanoma borders tend to be uneven, or irregular, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.

Melanoma with an uneven border

C – Colour

Varied shades of brown, tan or black may be the first sign of melanoma. As melanomas progress, the colours red, white or blue may appear.

However, they can also be pink or lighter in colour.

Rare amelanotic melanomas are colourless. Benign moles are usually one to two shades of brown.

Melanoma with uneven colours

D – Diameter

Melanomas at the time of detection are usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm or ¼ inch in diameter). However, they may also be smaller.

Melanoma over 6mm in diameter

E – Evolving

The mole or skin lesion looks different from the rest. There is a change in size, shape, colour or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptoms in it such as bleeding, itching or crusting may be a warning sign of melanoma.

Melanoma with a change in size, shape, colour or elevation

 

Skin cancer self-examination

How to check your spots

Checking your skin means taking note of all the spots on your body, from moles to freckles to age spots. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin and it is one of the few cancers you can usually see. Ask someone for help when checking your skin, especially in hard to see places.

  • Examine your body front and back in a mirror, especially your legs
  • Bend your elbows: look carefully at your forearms, the back of your upper arms and your palms
  • Look at your feet, particularly the spaces in between the toes
  • Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror
  • Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror
  • Record your spots

How to contact us:

Specialist Nurse Team:
Lynda Knowles
Joanne Watson
Claire Lanfear
Samantha Wells

Brunel building
Southmead Hospital
Westbury-on-trym
Bristol
BS10 5NB
0117 414 7415

www.nbt.nhs.uk/

If you or the individual you are caring for need support reading this leaflet please ask a member of staff for advice.

© North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published October 2020. Review due October 2022. NBT003287

Skin Examination and Sun Protection Advice