May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin cancer… that’s not going to affect you right?

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.  Skin cancer… that’s not going to affect you right?

Scary stats time…

  • One in every three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer. It’s the world’s most common cancer.
  • 1 in 4 males and 1 in 5 females will be diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK.
  • Despite all of us being more aware of skin cancer these days, it is still the most common and fastest-rising cancer, especially among young people.
  • The incidence of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) has risen faster than any other cancer in Britain.
  • Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more often seen than felt.

But there is some good news – around 90% of cases are preventable, and best of all, almost all are curable if they are spotted early enough.

But we often still think it won’t happen to us.  “I live in the UK, I hardly see the sun sitting at a desk all day” or “Most moisturisers these are at least SPF15and I splat on a bit of Factor 30 at 8am when I go on your holiday because it says it’s waterproof.” Or “I have darker skin, I don’t burn.” Or maybe “It’s a healthy glow and I need to look like I managed a trip to somewhere more glamourous than Bournemouth this summer.”

That’s how many of us think, including your clients – except skin cancer can affect anyone.

Let’s bust a few myths.

  • Skin cancer is more common in those with fairer skin, but it can affect anyone, including those with black and brown skin.
  • You don’t have to burn for your skin to get damaged by the sun, just a light tan is a sign that your body is producing melanin as it tries to protect itself.
  • You can still be hit by the rays when you are not in direct sunlight. It can reach us as it is reflected from the environment around us.
  • In winter UVB levels may be lower, but the ozone layer is at its thinnest during winter months and UVA rays remain the same in all seasons. The sun reflected off snow can increase the intensity of UV reaching our skin and eyes by over 80% so don’t think a winter holiday will make you safer.
  • Reflective surfaces and that includes sand, water and the tiles of the infinity pool are all highly reflective, and UV rays can travel through water. In fact, water can intensify the strength of the UV.
  • Add to that the effects on your sunscreen of swimming and then towelling off afterwards and you soon realise how careful you need to be.
  • And if you thought living in the gloomy UK meant you don’t need to worry, you can still burn on overcast or cloudy days!

As a therapist, this is where you get to pull on your cape over your tunic and be a superhero.  You often see more of someone’s body than they see themselves.  Have you ever tried to look at your own back in a mirror?

When you give someone a treatment you are already looking at your client’s skin, and by educating yourself on what to look for, you can help ensure they are alerted to anything that could potentially lead to a melanoma.

Knowing what to look for on your own and your client’s skin is the first step to preventing skin cancer.   While you are treating your client you will notice if any lesions on their skin have:

  • Got bigger and/or changed in shape, particularly getting an irregular outline.
  • Changed colour, got darker, become patchy or multi-shaded.
  • Become elevated, firm to the touch and growing.
  • Started to itch, become painful, begin bleeding, got crusty or become inflamed.
  • Looks or is behaving differently from the rest of their moles or skin lesions.
  • Is evolving in any way, such as changes in size, shape, surface characteristics or sensation

You may see them regularly meaning you can monitor that innocent-looking mole and notice if it changes.  You can take photos and make a note on their client record to check again each time you see them monitor changes.

Prevention is always better than cure, and as a therapist, you are a trusted advice giver – your client listens to you.

  • If you give sports massage, while you are easing those aches and niggles you can remind your client to apply plenty of sunscreen before their tennis lessons.
  • Next time you are having the ‘Going anywhere nice on holiday this year…?’ conversation with your client you can give them a gentle reminder to protect themselves from the sun, and not just because of cancer. As an expert in all things skin, if you tell them how ageing sun damage is, they are very likely to take notice.
  • If your client mentions booking a few sunbed sessions before they jet off, you are in an ideal position to warn them of the idea, and maybe recommend your favourite fake tanning products, which, unlike a sunbed, won’t do irreparable damage to their skin.

You’ve probably done your A&P and are right now thinking – no more! – but that’s where a very handy app can make it a whole lot easier – and it’s free.

Everything you need is at your fingertips – you just download the free Skcin app at [insert link]

The app has been developed by The Karen Clifford Melanoma and Skin Cancer Charity [insert link] and the aim is to allow everyone, of all ages and skin types to be aware of what to look for.  You can also encourage your client to download the app so they can then take control of their own monitoring and look after their families too.

There are different sections within the app:

  • PREVENTION: Learn about the risks associated with UVR, how it affects our skin and how to prevent skin cancer by adopting sun-safe strategies.
  • UV INDEX: Check the current and daily peak UVI, and the two-day UV forecast for any location across the globe. Set SMS alerts to advise you when the UVI reaches 3+ when it reaches its daily peak and set 2 hourly sunscreen reminders. Great for holidays.
  • RISK ASSESSOR: Understand your personal level of risk for the development of skin cancer based on your skin type, medical conditions, family history of skin cancer, lifestyle, history of sun exposure and sun protection habits.

Now we get to the part that you can really use as a therapist and your clients will thank you for it.

  • EARLY DETECTION & DIAGNOSIS: Use this section of the app to learn about the various forms of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, how to spot the early signs and symptoms when conducting examinations, what to do if you spot a suspicious lesion and how to ensure your client receives appropriate action from a qualified healthcare practitioner.
  • SKIN CHECKER: Learn how to conduct thorough, full-body examinations and set reminders when monthly examinations are due. Let your client know that every time you give them treatment, you’ll be keeping an eye on any moles – what better way to encourage them to have regular treatment?
  • LESION TRACKER: This enables you to track, monitor and compare changes to lesions using close-up photography and management tools. In addition, you can assess any lesion for features suggestive of the various forms of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer with the lesion assessment tool which provides comprehensive advice and signposting based on the outcome of your assessment.

By working with your client, you can keep an eye on their skin and help them educate themselves on how to take precautions and what changes to look for.

SKCIN also offer ‘training eyes to save lives’ – an initiative across the hair, beauty and healthcare industries nationwide. As a professional, you’ll be equipped to spot the early signs and symptoms of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer and confidently signpost your clients to seek appropriate action.

The online training platforms, backed up by printed learning tools and resources have been specifically designed for the beauty industry, as therapists are perfectly placed to observe abnormalities or changes that may occur on your client’s skin (often in places they can’t see themselves).  They will trust your advice in relation to seeking a professional clinical assessment.

There are many cases of skin cancers being diagnosed early by therapists and lives saved as a result of this training.

One self-employed therapist said, “I’ve referred 8 clients to their GP/dermatologist since completing the course. Five were skin cancers. Mainly melanomas. They wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t encouraged them to go. All have been so grateful. They were on the chest area, the back and a leg. Your course has saved their lives!”

To date, SKCIN has provided printed resources to over 18,000 registered professionals and fully accredited over 10,000 professionals who are now providing a free, potentially life-saving service to well over 1 million clients and patients nationwide.


To find out more, register to take part and join Skcin’s growing army of MASCED Accredited professionals on a mission to combat skin cancer and save lives visit: MASCED.UK

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