Skin cancer factsheet

Skin cancer fact sheet

Did you know that skin cancer rates in Gloucestershire are higher than the national average?

  • Skin cancer rates are on the increase in Gloucestershire and across the UK.
  • There are two main types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma is less common, but more serious. Non-melanoma skin cancer is very common, but less serious.
  • If it is detected early, skin cancer is not life-threatening.  However the more serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma can lead to death if it not diagnosed early.
  • Like most cancers, skin cancer is more common with increasing age, but malignant melanoma is disproportionately high in younger people.
  • Every day more than two people under 35 in Britain are diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

What causes skin cancer?

Most cases are caused by over exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVA) from the sun or artificial sources like sun beds.

What is sun burn?

Sunburn is a sign that ultraviolet (UV) radiation has damaged your skin cells. This damage can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.

You don’t have to be on holiday or abroad to get sun burnt. You can also get sun burnt out and about in the UK – watching sport, doing the gardening, walking round town or just sitting in the park.

Who is most at risk of skin cancer?

Everyone should protect their skin in the sun, but small children and people with fair skin and lots of moles or freckles are particularly at risk. Builders and farmers and anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors should also take particular care.

Why is it important to protect children?

Young skin is delicate and very easily damaged by the sun. All children, no matter whether they tan easily or not, should be protected from the sun. Babies under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.

What about sun beds?

Sunbeds can be more dangerous than natural sunlight because they use a more concentrated form of UVA radiation. Every time you use a sunbed you are damaging your skin and increasing your risk of skin cancer.

What about Vitamin D?

Our bodies need some sunlight to produce Vitamin D which is good for the health of our bones. However you can enough vitamin D without having to burn.

How can people protect themselves from sun burn and skin cancer?

  • Seek shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its hottest
  • Cover up with a T shirt, wide brimmed hat and sun glasses
  • Use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 – the higher the better- and apply it generously and regularly. Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your sunscreen.

No sunscreen, no matter how high the factor, can provide 100% protection; so make sure you combine it with shade and clothing.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Any moles, freckles or patches of normal skin that change in size, shape or colour over weeks or months should be shown to your doctor straight away.

Please help raise awareness!

People working with children and young people, sports and leisure providers, employers, health professionals and voluntary and community organizations can all help spread the sun awareness message.

Visit to read more about skin cancer and developing a sun awareness policy for your organisation, and order free promotional materials from Cancer Research UK.