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Raising Awareness for Skin Cancer, and How to Minimise Your Chances

I hate to be a downer, but I think this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. If you can’t already tell from the title, I’m going to be talking about skin cancer. Yes, the unutterable C word. But we need to talk.

I think everybody knows someone with cancer and has been personally affected by the disease either from suffering from it themselves or having a family member or friend die from it. Cancer comes in many forms and nobody can dodge it, but some people are luckier than others. There was a statistical forecast that came out a couple of years ago saying that around 50% of the population of the UK will experience cancer in their lifetime by 2020. That’s almost half the people in the country, 1 in 2 people. It’s insane and terrifying at the same time. You can never smoke a cigarette in your life and get lung cancer, you can drink in moderation and get liver cancer, etc. But there are some things that you can do to help minimise your chances of succumbing to the disease, specifically skin cancer, so that’s what I’m going to be talking about today.

You might be thinking, why the sudden interest? Well, to put it bluntly, someone I know died of melanoma recently and it has really shaken me. They were so young and I really am devastated. I don’t know all of the details about how they caught the cancer, but I do know that they are now gone and there’s nothing I can do to help them. But I can help myself and hopefully I can help some of you. Remember, cancer is not always a death sentence.

Skin cancer is particularly common in warm countries because it is linked to sun exposure. Being from the UK and seeing approximately  2 weeks of sun each year (a slight exaggeration but everyone knows how short the British summertime is), lying out in the sun for hours is not an issue for me. However, I realise that some of you live in warmer climates and are therefore more likely to be at risk.

  • The number one point I can make it to wear sun protection. I usually use SPF 50 but that’s only because I’m ridiculously pale. Most people are fine with about SPF 20, and yes, you can still get a tan with sun cream on and you’ll be saving your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
  • Don’t put oil on your skin to bake yourself tanned, it won’t really work and you will end up burnt.
  • And also, never fall asleep on a beach. I did that once and woke up with legs redder than a lobster (and oh so painful).
  • Avoid the sun during the hottest hours (usually lunchtime, so from 11am to 3pm). Take a parasol, wear a sun hat, remember to wear sunglasses (for your eyes more than your skin), or even have a little siesta.

Secondly, don’t use sun beds. I know that sounds like basic common sense and I did think that most people of my generation knew better, but it seems that a lot of us don’t. There are laws in place in the UK that make it mandatory for you to be 18 to use a sun bed, but that doesn’t stop people (just like drinking laws don’t stop 13 year olds from downing a half bottle every weekend). If you want a tan, get a spray tan – they’ll look better too, no red and flaking skin. Also, there’s a bunch of at-home fake tan options out there. You get lotions, gels, mousses, spray cans; there’s honestly so many options. And yes, whilst the majority of fake tans smell terrible you can just put them on before bed and shower in the morning (and wash your sheets because they may stink/be stained too). Nobody ever thought beautifying oneself would be easy.

Thirdly, keep an eye out for moles. Some people have more moles than others but I think most people have at least one. Check them often to see if they’ve changed shape or colour, and if you think there have been changes get them checked at your doctor. It’s always best to be on the safe side and your doctor won’t be annoyed at you if there’s nothing wrong – they’d also prefer you’re safe. Here’s an NHS checklist of signs to look out for.

There are a few things which put you more at risk than other people. If you have pale skin, blonde or red hair, freckles, blue eyes (I have all of the aforementioned, blonde hair not red), immune diseases (HIV, MS, Lupus etc), are older, or have damaged your skin in the sun already, you’re more likely to suffer from skin cancer. However, if you don’t fit these categories you’re not automatically safe, just statistically less likely to get skin cancer.

Pink Sands Beach in the Bahamas, a dream holiday destination. Ps – look at this Pinterest board if you want to drool over photos of the Caribbean/cry over the fact you’re not going there.

Sorry if this post is not what you want to read, especially on a fashion blog, but I think it is so important. I’ve always been an avid user of SPF (it’s also in a lot of foundations so you may be protected on your face already!), and now that someone I know has actually died from the disease, I’m even more aware of the dangers. Luckily I don’t enjoy sunbathing, the pale skin doesn’t help, but I know a lot of people do. Please stay safe and tell all of your friends and family to take measures to protect themselves too!

Also, if you want to donate to any charities doing research on the disease, I’ve donated to British Skin Foundation before (they specialise in skin diseases in general, as well as skin cancer); Cancer Research UK, who help with all types of cancer; and also Macmillan Cancer Support, who provide healthcare and support to cancer fighters. Any amount, however little, can make a difference. Any awareness that you can raise helps too – spread the word to help people you love.

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