Male outdoor workers urged to “Cover Up, Mate” as skin cancer in men continues to rise

Published: 18 July 2016

Men who spend long periods of time outdoors are being urged to protect themselves against the sun this summer amid a rise in the number of people being diagnosed with skin cancer in South West.

Farmers, builders, sportsmen and gardeners are all being targeted by NHS England South’s “Cover Up, Mate” campaign because of their prolonged exposure to the sun – and men are a particular focus because research indicates that they are much less likely than women to slap on the sunscreen.

Latest statistics from Cancer Research show that since the late 1970s, skin cancer incidence rates have more than quadrupled (360% increase) in Great Britain. The increase is larger in males where rates have increased more than six-fold (544% increase), than in females where rates have more than tripled (263% increase).

Latest statistics from Public Health England show that in the South West there was a 31.9% rise in incidence of malignant melanoma between 2009 and 2014, from 1,444 cases to 1,906 cases. There was also a 14.5% rise in mortality from malignant melanoma, from 248 deaths in 2009 to 284 deaths in 2014. Locally, in Torbay the rise has been 74.19%, giving Torbay the high rate of malignant melanoma’s in the South West.

NHS England South West Medical Director Caroline Gamlin said:

“Being outdoors is clearly crucial for farmers, builders, gardeners, Post Office workers and others, and for people who take part in a lot of outdoor sport, but there are simple steps can be taken to lower the risk of skin cancer and be sun safe.

“Men in particular need to take much more care. They need to use at least factor 15 sunscreen and apply it generously on all exposed skin – not forgetting their necks, ears and bald patches!”

Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer which can develop slowly over time. So while sunburn might feel better in a few days, it may have done long term damage which could be fatal.

Dr Rosie Davies, Consultant Dermatologist at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust said:

“We are all so lucky to live in such a sunny and beautiful part of the country but with that does come the risk of skin cancer. Here in Torbay we have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the South West.

“Getting burnt, even if it is just slightly, does increase your risk in the long term. The good news is, that it is preventable. During the summer months I would urge everyone to ensure they have taken the necessary steps to protect their skin with clothing or sun cream. Just taking 10 minutes each morning to ensure you have cream, sunglasses and a hat with you is a 10 minutes well spent. I also advise everyone to know their skin and to check their skin on a monthly basis to detect any change in the colour or size of moles. If you are concerned that a mole is changing you should see your GP in the first instance. The sooner a cancerous mole is discovered the better the chance of successful treatment.”

National Farmers Union South West Regional Board Chairman, James Small, said:

“Working in the rough, tough world of farming, we often want to brush things off and just get on with the job, but there are times when that kind of resilience can come back and bite you and this is one of those.

“We owe it to ourselves and our families to take the risk of skin cancer seriously and above all if we are bothered by something to not dismiss it, but get it checked out.”

Top sun safe tips include:

  • Use at least factor 15 sunscreen in the sun and use plenty of it
  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin – don’t forget your neck and ears and your head if you have thinning or no hair
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat
  • Take particular care if have fair skin, moles or freckles, red or fair hair, or light-coloured eyes.

Official advice on sun safety can be found on NHS Choices.