19th September 2018

Skin cancer patient warns of delayed dangers following sun exposure

The lasting effects of over exposure to the sun are being driven home this month (June), as part of NHS England’s Cover Up, Mate campaign.

It’s a skin cancer prevention initiative, which targets those who work outside, including farmers, gardeners, and men in particular.

Victor Vernier, (MBE) from Taunton, was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2002 after spending years working outdoors, in his role as a gardener. Some 16 years later he is still being treated for melanomas which have been diagnosed across his upper body.

Victor told us: “As a younger man we all wanted to get a sun tan and would often visit the coast or take off our tops when we could to impress the ladies. In the early 1950’s and 60’s there was very little sun-cream so, we used what we could to get the best tan possible, often this was oil with no SPF.

“It seems ridiculous now, but there was no awareness of skin cancer 50 years ago, we had never heard of it. There was no information on keeping an eye on moles or spots that had changed or looked different, that’s changed now.

“It was only many years later when my GP commented that I had a lot of moles that they did an assessment. I was sent to hospital to see a consultant and came home with around 14 stitches; it was a little bit of a shock.”

Victor has under gone many treatments and is always checking his skin with support of his family to ensure there’s no change. He added: “If I’d known then the harm the sun causes I would have done as much as I could to ensure I protected my skin. It’s simple really, everyone should be sensible and user higher factor sun creams, wear a hat and cover up. Protect yourself and prevent skin cancer, it’s that easy!”

Cover Up, Mate urges men in particular to protect themselves against the harmful effects of the sun. Statistics show that levels of skin cancer continue to rise, especially in the South West of England. Those that spend a lot of time outdoors are more at risk because of their increased exposure to sunlight.

For the last three years men have been the focus of the campaign, as research indicates that women are more likely to slap on the sun-cream and a hat. Cancer Research figures indicate that, since the 1970s, skin cancer rates have quadrupled and the incidence of skin cancer in men is growing at twice the rate that it is for women.

This weekend is set to be another warm one with some rain. The Met Office is warning it doesn’t have to be sunny for UV rays to have a harmful affect.

Yolanda Clewlow, the Strategic Lead for Health at the Met Office said: “If you’re working outdoors it’s important to remember that UV levels are usually highest between May and September. You can still get burnt even when it’s cloudy, clouds don’t stop all UV rays, and unlike the sun’s warmth, it’s difficult to know when they may be harming you. We advise people to check our UV forecast before they leave the house.”

The advice from NHS Choices remains that people with fair skin, moles, freckles, red or fair hair, or light coloured eyes are the most susceptible to skin cancer.

The advice for everyone, including outdoor workers is:

  • Stay in the shade wherever possible
  • Make sure you don’t burn
  • Protect yourself by wearing suitable clothing, e.g. a hat if possible
  • Wear sunglasses and sunscreen of at least factor 15
  • Reapply your sunscreen every few hours.

You can find more information about skin cancer prevention at:

www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/sunscreen-and-sun-safety/