Skin cancer - beware the midday sun

One of the benefits of an expat life is living in warm and sunny countries. This has particularly been the case this year when we have heard so much about the never ending British winter. However, sunshine is not always good for us. As northern Europeans, most of us have fair skins, but interestingly, a recent survey stated that 48% of people think their skin colour is darker than it is. This can be a problem when it comes to living in a hot country and exposing yourself to the sun on a regular basis, as you will often not appreciate the risks you are running. The survey also found that the desire for a tan was increasing with 62% saying they found tanned skin more attractive, up from 56% just five years ago.

 The survey went on to state that 80% of us infrequently or never check for signs of skin cancer and indeed 69% said that they did not know what to look for. Public awareness of cancer has never been higher, yet skin cancer rates continue to grow. The majority of cases are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. One cause relates to the way we view our own skin – with more and more people thinking their skin colour is darker than it is, the result is people spending longer in the sun than they should and this could be contributing to the increasing numbers of skin cancer cases. But how many of us would know what to look for, if we were worried about skin cancer? Many of us have moles or dark patches on our skin that are flat or slightly raised and these usually stay harmless. However, moles and patches that change in size, shape or colour should be shown to your doctor.

Cancer Research UK recommends checking your skin using the ABCD rule. If you notice any of these signs, then see you doctor: Asymmetry – The two halves of your mole do not look the same Border – The edges of your mole are irregular Colour – The colour of your mole is uneven, with more than one shade Diameter – The mole is wider than 6mm in diameter You should also look out for a new growth or sore that won’t heal; a spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts; and a mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs. International private medical insurance, or IPMI, is designed to cover eligible healthcare costs and last from three months onwards wherever you are based.

April International UK has over 30 years’ experience providing international medical insurance. The company currently offers healthcare cover to expats and their families in over 120 countries. Debbie Purser, CEO at April International UK comments, “Whilst recovery rates with skin cancer or malignant melanomas are very good, it is also true that incidence rates vary widely around the world and are highest by far in Australia/New Zealand (37 per 100,000 in 2008) which are also popular expatriate destinations. Incidence rates are increasing rapidly in many countries, including in the Nordic countries, where the increase has been attributed to excessive sun exposure during holidays at lower latitudes.”Sunburn can be painful and is an easy way of knowing then you have damaged your skin. Over time, this can lead to skin cancer. We should all take simple precautions – don’t go out in the midday sun; wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses; and put on sunscreen, the higher protection factor the better. Be careful when you are out playing sport, it’s not just sunbathing that can cause problems, golfers for instance are a high risk as the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over 50. Remember also to protect yourself on overcast days as up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation can penetrate clouds and harm your skin. Debbie Purser ends, “Cancer treatments have advanced significantly over recent years, but are expensive, as many of the drugs needed are cutting edge. Happily, April International UK policies cover not only the initial treatment, but also any ongoing costs associated with the condition. Our policies offer one of the most comprehensive levels of support for the treatment of chronic or on gong conditions available, something we are justifiably proud of”