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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-  29 May 2006

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Sun Crazy Britons Still At Risk

NEW survey shows that a 3rd of people still risk sunburn!  .. and people living in the North are the least Sun Aware.  Despite continued skin cancer awareness campaigns, a new survey conducted by TNS (TNS Research Group) released this week shows that whilst the majority of us claim to be ‘Sun Aware’, over 1 in 2 people living in the North still get caught out and burn at the beginning of the summer and worse still, a third of us admit to not using a sunscreen whilst sunbathing in the UK.

As millions took advantage of the long awaited sunny Bank Holiday, a study from the University of Manchester has revealed that at midday on a Bank Holiday Monday, people should not be spending more than nine minutes in the sun without risking burning.  To combat this, a new initiative titled the ‘At Ri-SK? Campaign’ is being launched this month to urge people to be more sun & skin aware, and consult their doctor about any new or unusual marks that appear on their skin. Working in collaboration with key Women’s Institute Federations, the campaign aims to increase awareness and encourage partners, family and friends to support each other to aid early diagnosis and successful treatment of solar keratosis.

Dr Chris Steele, a skin cancer sufferer himself and ITV This Morning’s resident GP, will be speaking at a series of Women’s Institute educational meetings and commented:- “Medical data shows that the incidence of solar keratosis (common sun-induced skin lesions caused by cumulative sun exposure/ damage) is particularly high in rural areas compared to the rest of the UK – this is likely to be due to the number of people who work outside, perhaps in construction or outdoor attractions. Awareness is vital to encourage people who think they may be at risk, having previously over exposed their skin, to consult their doctor if they have any concerns - this new survey shows that in the North alone, 1 in 2 people take up to a month to consult their GP about new or unusual marks on their skin. More worryingly, 1 in 5 wouldn’t visit their doctor at all!”

The survey also highlighted that 100% of people living in the North of England – the highest in the UK – are unaware of what solar keratosis is (a common sun induced skin lesion). These commonly occurring small raised, rough patches (solar keratosis) develop on the skin and are often ignored even though in some cases they can lead to skin cancer. Research shows that up to 10% of solar keratoses go on to develop squamous cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer, which is also one of the most treatable if diagnosed early. Currently, it is not possible to predict which solar keratoses will develop into a skin cancer, hence the importance of early assessment and appropriate treatment where necessary by a health professional.

Dr Chris Steele concludes:- “For many people the safety advice comes too late, which is why it is vital to highlight the importance of checking your skin for changes on a regular basis. Over the last 10 years the incidence of skin cancer has doubled and as many as 70,000 people a year are diagnosed with skin cancer, but thousands more remain undiagnosed and untreated. The key message here is that early diagnosis means the skin lesions can be treated, in most cases successfully, and prevent possible progression to skin cancer.”

CMO GIVES ADVICE ON SURVIVING THE SUMMER SUN

THE dangers of heat and top tips for surviving the summer sun were this week highlighted by the Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson with the publication of an updated heatwave plan.  The plan gives advice to health workers and those caring for vulnerable older people so they know what action to take in advance and in the event of a heatwave. A public information leaflet will also be made available which gives practical advice on surviving the heat.

Although severe heatwaves are uncommon in England, the experience across Northwest Europe in 2003 is a reminder that heat can be fatal.  In England figures released showed there were 2,000 excess deaths - 85% of which were amongst people aged 75 and over .

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said:- "Taking action in advance can help reduce the number of excess deaths from heat. This plan will help make sure that the NHS and care services are prepared should a heatwave arrive.  The elderly are particularly vulnerable and it is important that those aged over 75, especially those who live alone or in care homes, take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  We will be sending a leaflet to GPs, pharmacies and walk-in centres across the country with basic advice to help people protect themselves from the effects of high temperatures".

The public information leaflet called 'Heatwave - a guide to looking after yourself and others in hot weather' contains top tips such as:

- If a heatwave is forecast, try and plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat.

- If you can, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm).

- If you must go out stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light loose fitting clothes, preferably cotton. If you will be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.

- Take cool showers or baths and splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly your face and the back of your neck.

- Eat as you normally would. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.

- Look after older people. They are much more prone to the effects of heat. If you have older relatives or neighbours you can help simply by checking on them if possible every day, and reminding them to drink plenty and often. They should have a mixture of drinks including fruit juice and water. They should keep their house as cool as possible.

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