Skin Cancer Awareness: What To Look For

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

Skin cancer - what you need to know

Skin cancer is something that we’re all pretty familiar with, in terms of protecting our skin against it. But do you know what skin cancer is?

Without getting geeky with the science – essentially, it is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, often triggered by the harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds.  This is both UVB rays AND UVA rays – which is why I bang on about wearing sunscreen ALL of the time! (Sorry, not sorry!). 

There are three major types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and the most dangerous, Melanoma. BCC does not usually spread to other parts of the body. SCC has an increased risk of spreading and can enter the body via the lymph nodes, where it can reach vital organs.  Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and can spread via the bloodstream and lymphatic system, to form new tumours. This is why melanoma is the most talked about skin cancer. 

But here’s the silver lining: skin cancer, when detected early, is typically very treatable.

Skin Cancer - Know your ABCDE

When it comes to skin cancer, knowing your ABCDE might just save your life!  This is an easy way to remember what to look out for.  If you notice ANY changes to a mole or lesion, or new lesions appear, please make an appointment with your doctor ASAP. I have referred many clients to their doctor over the year, and just as well – as a handful of them did indeed have skin cancer. But as it was detected and treated early, they had a really positive outcome. Here’s what to look out for: 

Asymmetry: Healthy moles and freckles tend to be symmetrical. If you draw a line through a mole and the two halves do not match, it indicates asymmetry, which can be an indicator of cancer.

Border: If you have a mole, spot, or lesion with blurry or jagged edges, this is something to get checked out. 

Colour: A variety of colours is another warning signal. A healthy mole is usually a single shade of brown. If you notice different shades of brown, tan, black, or even red, white, or blue, please get it looked at by a doctor.

Diameter: If you have a mole or lesion larger than 1/4 of an inch, please get it looked at. BUT: Melanoma can be smaller than this, so size alone isn’t the indicator. 

Evolving: Checking your moles and skin regularly is really important.  Any change in size, shape, colour, or elevation needs to be checked. Equally, if you have a lesion that won’t heal, bleeds, or is continually rough and sore, it’s something to get checked. 

Now, please don’t panic! If you notice any of these signs it does not mean you have skin cancer. These are the signs to look out for and to prompt you to see a doctor for assessment.  It may not be anything to be concerned about, but better to be safe than sorry! And remember, early detection is key, so even if it is skin cancer, the sooner you have it treated, the better.

How to protect your skin from skin cancer

There are ways to protect your skin against skin cancer. Here are my top tips: 

Sunscreen: Minimum factor 30, UVA and UVB (broad spectrum), 4/5 star rating.  You need to wear it even when it’s cloudy and hazy out – you’re still exposed to UV rays! And remember, reapply every two hours when you’re out and about. 

Be a shady lady: Seek shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is why the UV rays are at their strongest – it’s the perfect time to chill out under an umbrella in the shade. 

Cover up: Wear sun-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. Now, this does not stop all UV rays from getting through (unless you’re wearing UV-protective clothing), so make sure you still have your sunscreen on too. 

No sunbeds please: Trust me, these are not good for your skin. And whilst they were super popular when I was a youngster, the knowledge around the damage that sunbeds can cause is vast now. Avoid at all costs!

Boost your skin from within: You can help protect your skin from skin cancer, from within. Foods that are rich in antioxidants can really help. Click HERE to find out more. 

Look after your skin from within

Goes without saying that I’m going to give you my top tips for looking after your skin from within! When it comes to protecting your skin from the risks of skin cancer, this can really make a difference. 

Hydration is key: Staying hydrated helped maintain healthy skin cells and keeps your skin radiant and plump. It’s not just about drinking water, eat foods that have high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, and berries.

Antioxidants are key! This BLOG post has loads of helpful tips. Foods rich in antioxidants help protect your skin from damage by free radicals, which can be exacerbated by UV exposure.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is essential for healthy collagen production in the skin. It keeps your skin healthy but will also aid healing and repair post-UV exposure. Oranges, strawberries, kiwi, and bell peppers are excellent sources.

Vitamin E: works in harmony with Vitamin C to protect your skin against UV damage. Nuts and seeds, spinach, and broccoli are great sources to include in your diet. 

Beta-Carotene: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, and mangoes, are packed with this powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin from sun damage.

Lycopene: found in tomatoes and other red and pink fruits, lycopene may protect your skin from sunburn. Be careful if you experience heat rash though, they can exacerbate this for some people. 

Omega-3 fatty acids: can help protect your skin from damage and may also reduce your sensitivity to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Look for oily fish like salmon and mackerel. Nuts are also a great source, walnuts and flaxseeds are all excellent sources of Omega-3s.

Green tea: is rich in polyphenols, which are antioxidants with numerous health benefits, including some protection against sunburn and long-term UV damage.

Looking after your skin from the outside in and inside out gives your skin the best chance of being healthy, and being protected against skin cancer. 

In conclusion.....

Whenever we hear the word ‘cancer’, it feels scary – I know.  But I just want to remind you that the treatment of skin cancer is overall, very effective and the outcomes are positive. 

The key is prevention and early diagnosis. 

You can take steps to protect your skin against skin cancer, through your lifestyle, nutrition, and of course, sunscreen. 

But, if you are concerned at all, please go and see your GP. My recommendation is to have a face-to-face appointment, as an e-consult is not sufficient for your mole/lesion to be assessed. The doctor will use a special magnifier to look into the lesion, to check for any abnormalities, which can’t be done remotely.  If you’re not happy with the outcome of speaking with your GP, please ask for another opinion or a referral. You have every right to ask for this. Alternatively, you can seek a private opinion from a GP or dermatologist. The Candover Clinic in Basingstoke is usually who I refer my clients to, if they can’t get appointments/support from their GP.

I can’t diagnose or treat skin cancer, but if you would like me to point you in the direction of someone who can help, please get in touch. 

And that's a wrap

I really hope that you found my blog on skin cancer awareness useful. If you would like some help with your skin, then please get in touch. I know it can be confusing, with all of the different advice available out there. The truth is, that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer, as so many factors affect your skin. I always work with my clients from the inside out, and outside in – to ensure you get the best possible results. 

I offer remote services, as well as clinical treatments. My aesthetics clinic is based in Alton, Hampshire. I’m on the Hampshire/Surrey border, just 15 minutes from Basingstoke and Farnham, and I’m at the end of a direct train line from London Waterloo. 

If you have any questions, please let me know. 

And, if you haven’t taken my Skin Quiz yet, then please do. It’s fun, takes less than 4 minutes, and you’ll get immediate access to personalised results. 

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