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14 May 2018

Sun Awareness Week

A Bristol nurse is encouraging people to protect themselves from the sun by covering up, wearing sunscreen and protecting themselves from skin cancer.

Sun Awareness Week runs from today (14 May 2018) until Sunday (20 May 2018) and UH Bristol's Macmillan melanoma nurse Gemma Shaw, is raising awareness of the signs to look out for and how to protect yourself from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Gemma specialises in providing support to patients with melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.

She said: "If melanoma is recognised and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it isn't, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat.

"Melanoma isn't always preventable, but avoiding getting sunburned can reduce people's changes of developing it.

"There is a high risk of getting burnt whilst on holiday or doing outdoor activities such as gardening, playing sports such as cricket or sunbathing.

"It's important when you're outside in the sun to be really careful, particularly if you have pale skin and many moles. You can help protect yourself by using sunscreen and dressing sensibly in the sun.

"Regularly checking your skin can help lead to an early diagnosis and increase your chances of successful treatment.

"If you notice any changes to your moles please speak to your GP who will refer you to a specialist clinic or hospital if they think you have melanoma."

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can occur anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women. Melanomas are uncommon in areas which are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.

In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.

An "ABCDE moles checklist" has been developed to help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma. The checklist and other useful information can be found on the NHS Choices website at:



"If you're going to go out into the sun, please cover up, wear sun screen, go into the shade and don't stay out in the sun too long." That's the message from Philip McCauley who knows how dangerous the sun's rays can be.

Philip, who lives in Bedminster, Bristol, is receiving medication after a melanoma, a type of skin cancer, spread to his brain.

The 64-year-old, who is married with two grown-up children, said: "It makes you aware that you have to be careful. The consequences can be devastating."

One day in July last year, Philip awoke and was feeling unwell. He began slurring his speech and his wife was concerned he may be having a stroke so she called for an ambulance.

"My wife told me that previous to this I had been behaving oddly for a couple of months which suggested something was amiss. I had been slurring my speech, talking nonsense and acting strangely and out of character," he said.

"The day my wife called an ambulance I was taken into hospital, I had some tests and a scan. They found a tumour on my brain which was cancerous and the following month I had this removed.

"However, it was found that this tumour was only the secondary cancer and more tests were needed to find the primary source.

"The tests found that I had cancer on the membrane between my brain and skull which was the primary source.

"I was unable to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy and was prescribed medication. I now take tablets every day which are starving the cancerous cells of blood with the hope that the cells will all die.

"I have a scan every three months and the most recent one appeared to show that the cancerous cells are reducing and that things are improving."

A melanoma is caused by skin cells that begin to develop abnormally. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas.

"I'd urge people to be very careful of the sun. People think it's nice to have a tan but the sun can be your enemy," added Philip.

"Parents, please make sure your children are well covered with sun block, and don't let them stay in the sun too long, and the same goes for you. Anybody and everybody can get skin cancer - don't let it be you or your children."


Philip McCauley