WHEN the sun is shining, it’s tempting to strip off and soak up the rays without giving too much thought to protection.
After all, what harm can it do?
Well, a significant amount, actually. Today we report how cases of melanoma, a type of cancer that begins in the skin and can spread to other parts of the body, have multiplied in Portsmouth.
Consultant dermatologist Stephen Keohane, who works at the dermatology centre based in the former St Mary’s Hospital site, says the annual figure has gone up from about 100 when he began working in the city in 1998 to 350 by last year.
Just as worryingly, there has been a 28 per cent increase in the rate of referrals from this time last year.
Portsmouth has a significantly higher rate of skin cancer diagnosis compared to the rest of the country. The message is clear – too many people are ignoring warnings and getting sunburn.
The temptation to get out there and make the most of the good weather is at its greatest here on the sunny south coast.
There is also the localised problem of people living here who were or are in the armed forces and who have been exposed to long periods of sun in the tropics. Then there are the high proportion of fair-skinned people here who burn easily.
If melanoma has already struck, then the key is the earliest possible diagnosis and treatment. So we’re pleased to see that the Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group has spent £25,000 on dermatoscopes, which allow GPs at 13 city practices to examine skin problems and see if there are signs of cancer.
The trial scheme means doctors can send images to dermatologists at Queen Alexandra Hospital for further advice and guidance and patients with the most serious form of skin cancer can be fast-tracked.
But of course the best outcome is for us all to realise the power of the sun. And whatever public campaigns are used, people must also start taking responsibility for their own safety.
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