For those lucky enough to be jetting off this summer, it is time to start thinking about stocking up on the sun block. The risks associated with basking in the sun while on holiday without protection are well known.
But it is not just when you go abroad that you should be thinking about sun protection. Skin cancer is the most common cancer among those aged 20 to 39, who make up a high percentage of those who swarm the beaches in the UK as soon as the first rays break through.
In April, Cancer Research UK released figures that indicated a tripling in melanoma rates among 15 to 34-year-olds in the UK. This means that each day more than two people under the age of 35 in the UK are diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
In 2010, 7 per cent of all Aegon critical-illness claims were for skin melanoma, which accounted for 11 per cent of all cancer claims. This was a 2 per cent increase compared with claims in 2008. The claimants were in their thirties and forties at the time of claim, with the majority of them being male. The biggest single claim paid last year for skin cancer was £1.3m.
The three most common skin cancers are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer and melanoma. With the exception of malignant melanoma, skin cancer is rarely fatal.
It is thought skin cancer can have a number of causes, including smoking, that can double the risk of developing it. However, the most cited cause is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation resulting in sunburn.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure and at the start of the year, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence pub-lished new guidelines to help various organisations in their work to prevent skin cancer.
The new guidelines encourage a balanced approach, helping to ensure skin cancer prevention activities do not discourage outdoor physical activity, while encouraging people to use sensible skin protection.
The risk of developing skin cancer can be reduced significantly by taking the following steps:
- Avoid smoking
- Reduce exposure to the sun – especially in the early years
- Avoid exposure to the sun between the peak hours of 10am and 3pm
- Wear protective clothing
Use sunscreen and blocks and reapply frequently
Prevention of skin cancer for me is a personal crusade. My brother was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at the age of 32 and died six years later. A powerful reminder to us all.
’Life cover – like sun cream, it is at application stage that you prevent the future risks’
Plan Money director Peter Chadborn explains the importance of full disclosure to avoid a claim for skin cancer being declined
It is that time of year when many of us will be heading off to sunnier climes for our summer holidays. Most of us will be sure to pack appropriately high-factor sun cream, such is the awareness we all now have of the risks of over-exposure to UV rays. It is a routine part of our holiday preparation nowadays.
This increasing awareness is obviously a good thing and most of us, especially those with young children, take the risks very seriously. On the beaches, you will regularly see parents lathering on bucket-loads of sun cream to their kids – the more the better.
It would be wise to adopt the same practice when you are applying for critical-illness insurance or life cover. Like sun cream, it is at application stage that you prevent the future risks. When you are applying, be sure to disclose everything – the more the better. Do not risk having a future claim declined because you failed to mention the fact you had been to the doctor to get that mole checked out after returning from your last summer holiday.
Skin cancer – the facts
- Skin is the biggest organ of the body
- The rate of diagnosis of malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, has quadrupled in the last 30 years
- In the 1970s, around 260 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed among 15 to 43-year-olds. This has risen to 900 cases a year, or almost two a day.
- Across the population in general, cases of malignant melanoma increased by 8.5 per cent between 2007 and 2008, from 10,800 to 11,700.
- Malignant melanoma is almost twice as common in young women (up to age 34) as in young men – but more men die from it
- Skin cancer is the second most common cancer in the 15 to 34 age group and the sixth most common across all age groups in the UK
- Of the 2,560 deaths caused by skin cancer in 2008, 2,070 were from malignant melanoma
- However, malignant melanoma survival rates are among the highest for any cancer. Latest figures show 81 per cent of men and 90 per cent of women survive the disease for at least five years after diagnosis
All figures from Cancer Research UK