New campaign urges middle-aged to check their sun-damaged skin:

A striking new campaign was launched today urging people with the common condition actinic keratoses to have any suspicious lesions checked out by a GP for fear of developing a form of skin cancer.

The national skin disease research charity, the British Skin Foundation is launching their ‘Holiday Souvenirs’ campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the potential development of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in the middle-aged and older.

Actinic keratoses, also known as solar keratoses, are patches of skin damaged through long-term repeat exposure to the sun. In the majority of cases, the lesions are harmless. However, it is believed that up to one in every thousand lesions could turn malignant. Although this risk is relatively low, most people with sun-damaged skin can have upwards of 50 lesions on their body, raising this risk significantly. 

The campaign launch follows the news recently that malignant melanomas in the middle-aged have quadrupled since the 1970s, believed to be likely down to the popularity of package holidays and sunbed use in that time. Using the package holiday boom of the 1970s and 1980s as a focal point, the campaign images cleverly depict the lesions on the models’ foreheads in the shape of popular summer destinations like Tenerife, Corfu, and Sardinia. It is hoped that the images from this campaign will spur their target audience to have any suspicious lesions – those that grow in size, itch and bleed – checked out by a GP.

It is believed that about one in four people aged 60 and over have actinic keratoses, yet Department of Health figures released in June 2012 show almost a third (31 per cent) of people in their 60s put off visiting their GP because they think problems will simply go away, or they fear being dismissed as hypochondriacs.

Dr Bav Shergill, a spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation and consultant dermatologist at Brighton and Sussex Universities Hospitals NHS Trust, says: “Actinic keratoses amongst the middle-aged and older are extremely common, and the last thing we want to do is panic anyone unnecessarily. However, we know that long-term exposure to the sun has repercussions, the rates of malignant melanoma in the UK are testament to this fact, so it makes sense that people should be aware that there is a possibility that one of their lesions of actinic keratoses can develop into something cancerous. As always, if you’re not sure, then it’s good to have it looked at by an expert. Hopefully this campaign will encourage people to self-examine and take more care in the sun.”

Bevis Man of the British Skin Foundation says: “Our behaviour in the sun, regardless of age, has an impact on our skin and bodies, and the fact that people still get sun burnt is probably the biggest indication that there is room for further improvement in this area. We have always advocated that there is no harm in checking your skin, especially when a condition like actinic keratoses is so treatable.”

For more details on the new campaign

The risk of developing actinic keratoses can be reduced, or prevented from getting worse by following some simple sun safety tips:

Put clothes on – cover as much of your body with loose clothing as possible, and wear a hat. For areas that are still exposed, use sunscreen.

Wear shades, and find it too – UV protective sunglasses are a must and try finding shade during your time outside, especially when the sun is at its strongest.

Sunscreen – start with a SPF 30 or more, as well as a sunscreen that has a UVA rating of four or five stars/or the letters ‘UVA’ inside a circle. Don’t forget to re-apply frequently, whilst children should be using SPF 50 sunscreen.

Apply sunscreen, even on cloudy days – not only can the weather change quickly but you can still burn on a cloudy day as the sun’s UV rays are still able to penetrate through cloud.

Avoid sunbed use.

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