Melanoma Trust

In Memory of Sharon Rice O’Beirne


Watching out for ’sun spots’

Check-up: Fair-skinned people are particularly prone to the effects of the sun, writes Marion Kerr

I made the mistake of pointing out a couple of dry, rough spots on my forehead to my wife. Now she’s pressurising me to go to our GP as she thinks I might have cancer. I think she’s over reacting. What do you think?

I think you should listen to your wife and see your GP. If nothing else you’ll get a professional opinion and your wife’s mind will be put at rest. You may have developed “sun spots” otherwise known as solar keratoses which can occur in certain people with exposure to sunlight.

Fair-skinned people are particularly prone to the effects of the sun. But in some people these lesions can go on to develop into either a basal cell or a squamous cell cancer. Basal cell cancer is the most common and least dangerous type of skin cancer. It usually develops on the face and neck and is easily treated.

Squamous cell cancer tends to appear on the hands, forearms, face and neck but can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. A rarer form of skin cancer called melanoma is the most dangerous type and can start in a mole anywhere on the body.

I never sunbathe, so if these are the result of the sun how did I get them?

It is a common misconception that if you don’t actually sunbathe your skin cannot be damaged by the sun. However, the sun produces ultraviolet radiation with two types, UVA and UVB, reaching the earth’s surface.

Both are known to damage the skin and can cause skin cancers. If you work outdoors or take part in any outdoor activities or hobbies, your skin is at risk of damage.

Although gardening, fishing, golfing, cycling and walking are very healthy activities, you have to remember to protect you skin from the sun while you are doing them.

What’s the best way to protect skin?

It’s best to avoid direct sunlight particularly when the sun is at its strongest. When out and about wear a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved tops and trousers to protect the limbs. Get into the habit of using a sunscreen (factor 15+) on exposed skin and renew it frequently. In particular, be aware of reflected sun on cloudy days and drying winds.

Between April and September the sun is at its strongest in Ireland so be especially vigilant then. And remember to keep children well covered and use a high factor (30+) sun cream designed for young skin. Any changes in the skin should be reported to your doctor.

Original Source : Marion Kerr | The Irish Times | 18th November 2008.

Filed under : What the Papers Say
By The Irish Times
On 24 June, 2008
At 10:00 am
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