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Are You At Risk

The sun, skin colour and freckling

People who are very fair skinned, with red or fair hair and those who burn easily in the sun, are more at risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. Those with darker skins have more natural protection but can still get the disease. Although rare in the UK black people can get melanoma, most commonly on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. Worldwide, one in five cases of melanoma is diagnosed in a black African or Asian person.

Family history of Melanoma

If you have a close relative who has had melanoma, you are more at risk yourself. Around 5% of melanoma patients in the UK report a family history. This is probably because we tend to share the same sort of colouring and skin type as our close relatives. But nevertheless, even if you are darker in colouring, you should be more careful about the sun.

Some families tend to have large numbers of moles (most people have about 10 to 40 moles), or moles that are unusual (doctors call them “atypical”). The “atypical” moles tend to be an irregular shape or colour and occasionally can become malignant, people with moles like this have a higher than average risk of melanoma and it is important that these people examine their moles on a monthly basis so that they know them and can spot a change. The highest risk factor known for melanoma is to have a very close relative (parent or brother or sister) with melanoma and to have abnormal looking moles yourself. People who have a dysplastic naevus and who have two or more first-degree relatives with melanoma may be at 100 times the risk of developing melanoma. It is essential that those at high risk are vigilant in protecting their skin form the effects of the sun, please See Sun Protection for more information.

Scientists think that around 1 in 10 cases of melanoma may be linked to inherited faulty genes. Two of these genes have been identified and Cancer Research UK researchers are very close to identifying a third. For the small number of families who carry these genes, sun protection is even more important.

For information on what to look out for, go to Early Detection

Sunbed users increased risk of melanoma

Sunbeds are not safe, FACT. Recent statistics from Cancer Research UK have shown an alarming increase in malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) among women in their 20's and sunbeds are believed to be the root cause. The intensity of UV rays in some sunbeds can be more than 10 times stronger than the midday sun, a 20 minute visit to some booths is equivalent to spending a full day at the beach, completely unprotected by the sun's rays.

Labels like 'tanorexic' and 'binge-tanning' are used more and more in the media highlighting the true extent of the problem. Use of sunbeds is partly to blame with many teenagers becoming hooked on sunbed use, believing they look better and therefore healthier with a tan, the fact is however, all a tan displays is sun damaged skin.

Regular sunbed use under the age of 30 increases the risk of skin cancer by an alarming 75% and the binge-tanning epidemic that is prevalent amongst young women in this country has propelled malignant melanoma above cervical cancer making this deadliest form of skin cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in their 20s for the first time.

It is a common misconception that sunbeds provide health benefits, the most common being the vitamin D Debate. The fact is that 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight, outside the dangerous 11am to 3pm time, per day is sufficient to produce the required vitamin D levels. We can also get Vitamin D from certain foods including milk, fish, egg yolks, and fortified cereals. It is also a common misconception that sunbed use prior to going abroad builds a natural deffence to the sun's rays, the fact is that UV exposure from sunbeds is exactly the same as the damaging UV rays produced by the sun - there is no such thing as a safe tan!

We strongly advise those who seek a tan to switch to sunless tanning options. Fake tanning is a huge market adopted by both men and women who are concerned about UV exposure and wish to take care of their skin. Excessive UV exposure not only dramatically increases your chances of developing melanoma it is one of the most common causes of premature aging and once the damage is done, there's no going back!

Tanning risks in the news