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Sun Awareness Week, Skin Cancer & Cancer Life Insurance

The 3rd– 9th May marks Sun Awareness Week, an annual campaign ran by the British Association of Dermatologists. Marking the start of summer and the need for more information being readily available around sun awareness, people are encouraged to get involved in any way they can. The key is raising more awareness around sun protection and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, and rates continue to rise year on year. Sun Awareness Week aims to teach the public using a two-pronged approach by providing advice on prevention as well as early detection.

By teaching prevention, they aim to raise awareness of the dangers of burning and excessive tanning, and to discourage people from using sunbeds.

In terms of early detection, they aim to teach people how to spot the signs of skin cancer to increase the number of people who get diagnosed early. The Association has also successfully campaigned for legislative action to improve the regulation of sunbeds.

What has happened previously?

Over the years, Sun Awareness Week has been a great way to encourage people to become more aware of their skin when in the sun. It has provided information through surveys and events.

In 2017, a study was published that showed that more than one in three (35%) of people were burning every year in the UK, with a further 46% burning while abroad.

In other years, events such as an educational mole check at Shepherds Bush Westfield Shopping centre have taken place. In 2014, Team GB’s Louis Smith and Greg Rutherford became Sun Awareness Week lifeguards for photo opportunity sun protection postcards.

Facts about Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. The number of people diagnosed with the condition has risen since the 1970s.

There are two main categories of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

What is melanoma skin cancer?

Melanoma, also known as ‘malignant melanoma’, is a type of skin cancer. It is less common than non-melanoma cancers, but is the more dangerous form of the disease.

Melanomas can arise in or near a mole on the skin, however they can also appear as a new mark on skin that previously looked quite normal.

They develop when the skin pigment cells become cancerous and multiply in an uncontrolled way. They can also invade the skin around them and spread to other areas. Areas include lymph nodes, liver and lungs.

How common is melanoma?

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK. Between 2016 and 2018 there were 16,744 new cases of melanoma skin cancer each year. During the same time period, there were 2,333 deaths, however the survival rate was 87% thanks to early detection and medical help.

Shockingly, 86% of these cases were preventable. A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors). 1 in 36 UK males and 1 in 47 UK females will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime.

However, not all melanomas are due to sun exposure and some may appear in skin that is not usually exposed to the sun. People with many (more than 50) ordinary moles, or with very large (greater than 20cm in diameter) dark hairy birthmarks, have a slightly higher than average chance of developing a melanoma.

What are the other causes of melanoma?

The most important preventable cause is exposure to too much sunlight, especially during the first 20 years of life. If you sunburn easily or have done a lot, you are more at risk. Past episodes of severe sunburn, often with blisters and particularly in childhood, increase the risk of developing melanoma.

The use of artificial sources of ultraviolet light, such as sun beds, also raises the risk of getting a melanoma, even if the skin tans without burning.

Melanoma occurs most often in fair-skinned people who often have blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, and freckles. It is also more common in women than men. It is a very rare cancer in children, but it is the second most common cancer in people aged 15 to 34.

If you have a family history of melanoma, the risk is further increased. If you have had had one melanoma in the past, you are also more at risk of getting another.

Some people have many unusual (atypical) moles. They tend to be larger than ordinary moles, to be present in large numbers, and to have irregular edges or colour patterns. The tendency to have these moles can run in families and carries an increased risk of getting a melanoma. This is called Atypical Mole Syndrome.

It is also a higher risk for people with a suppressed immune system.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer is known as Keratinocyte cancer. Keratinocyte cancers are mainly comprised of ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma’ (BCC) and ‘Squamous Cell Carcinoma’ (SCC). BCC is the most common type of skin cancer in the UK. It is very slow growing and very rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

BCCs can vary greatly so it can be difficult to spot the appearance of skin cancer easily. People are usually first aware of them by having a scab that bleeds or doesn’t heal well, or by a new lump on the skin. Other things to look out for are scaly, red, flat marks, or lumps that have a pearl-like rim surrounding a central crater. There may also be small red blood vessels present.

Most BCCs are painless, but can be itchy or bleed when caught. Others cause ulcers if left untreated.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK.

It usually grows slowly, and is less likely than melanoma to spread to other parts of the body. It is more serious than BCC, as there is a small risk of it spreading to other parts of the body and becoming fatal. However, this only happens between 2% and 10% of the time.

They usually appear as scaly or crusty areas of skin which is red and inflamed, but do vary in appearance. SCCs can be sore or tender to touch and they can also bleed or appear as an ulcer.

How common are Keratinocyte cancers?

Keratinocyte cancers are very common. Precise estimates for the number of non-melanoma skin cancers are very hard to give. Unlike most types of cancer, the records are known to be incomplete. Estimates by researchers suggest that there could be around 250,000 new cases every year.

Keratinocyte cancers can occur on any part of the body, but they are more common on sun exposed areas such as the head, ears, neck and back of the hands. People are often affected if they are outdoor workers, live or work in countries near the equator, or are older and have had a lifetime of frequent sun exposure.

How do I check for skin cancer?

Carrying out regular skin self-examinations is the best way to check for any signs of skin cancer. Early detection can help to reduce the risk of developing a larger, more serious skin cancer that may need extensive surgery or treatment.

You should be looking for:

–        New skin lumps, spots, ulcers, scaly patches or moles that weren’t there before

–        Marks (including moles) on the skin that have changed shape, colour, texture or size

–        Sores that do not heal

–        Any areas on the skin that are itchy, painful or bleed

Ideally you should examine your skin in a warm, well-lit room using a full length mirror and hand held mirror to get a closer look. Documenting any skin marks that you are not sure about is a good way to help medical practitioners in diagnosing skin cancer.

To make sure that you check all your skin, examining from head to toe using a mirror is the best way. Get a friend or relative to help you check the areas that are difficult to see.

Head: Examine your scalp using a comb to part your hair. Check your face and neck, as well as behind your ears and the back of your neck.

Upper body: Check your shoulders, chest and abdomen, breasts and groin area.

Arms and hands: Examine each arm in turn beginning with the hands. Look at both the front and back of your hands and check between your fingers and your fingernails. It’s also important to check your armpits.

Back: Asking a friend or relative to check your back is the easiest way to examine your body, however if you want to do it yourself, use a full-length mirror and a hand held mirror to look up close.

Legs and feet: Examine the front and sides of your upper and lower legs, then use your mirrors to check the backs. Remember to also check your feet and the soles, as well as between your toes and your toenails.

ABCD: An easy guide to checking your skin

The following ABCD-Easy rules are an easy way to remember how to check for changes that might indicate a melanoma:
  • Asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape
  • Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches
  • Colour – this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
  • Diameter – melanomas will progressively change. If you see any mole, or ‘mole-like’ mark getting bigger over a period of weeks to months, tell your doctor.
  • Expert – if in doubt, check it out! Your GP will refer you to a dermatologist if they have concerns.

What happens after I have seen my GP?

The first port of call should always be your GP if you notice something that has changed or that you have concerns about. If a mark does not go away after a couple of weeks, it’s time to get expert advice.

Once you have seen your GP, they will refer you to a Consultant Dermatologist who are experts in diagnosing skin cancer. GPs can refer anyone with a possible skin cancer to a local dermatology department, on the NHS.

If your GP suspects you have a melanoma or SCC, the two more dangerous types of skin cancer, you should be seen within just two weeks. If you have a lot of moles and it’s something that you are concerned about developing, you can also pay for private mole screening clinics, who will check the moles on your body and monitor any changes. If they find anything that they are worried about, they will normally refer you to an NHS consultant.

Skin cancer and Life Insurance

At The Insurance Surgery, we are experts in getting people with pre-existing medical conditions the life insurance that they and their family deserve. 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer in the past then it is good to know that, yes, you will be able to get life insurance after cancer.

Here are some of the main areas where we can help with life insurance for cancer patients:
  • Recent diagnosis and what options are available
  • Previous diagnosis (over 2 years) and finding a provider that covers you for a fair price
  • Those with a family history of cancer
  • If you have discovered cancerous cells or non-cancerous cells
  • Cover to help against the risk of cancer
Unsurprisingly due to the statistics, cancer is one of the most common reasons for claims on life insurance. If you already have an existing policy in place, it is worth checking that you are covered in case anything happens down the line. You can contact your insurer or speak to one of our experts at The Insurance Surgery, and we can help.

When applying for a life insurance policy, you must disclose any pre-existing medical conditions that you may have. Failing to tell your insurer about your personal circumstances can result in any claims being declined.

You can learn more about cancer and life insurance on our website, here.

Can I Get Life Insurance After Cancer?

For most people, it should usually be possible to get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis, depending on how much time has passed.

Some of the main things you might be asked include:
  • When were you diagnosed with cancer?
  • What type of treatment did you have?
  • When did you last receive Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy?
  • What was the Grade and Stage of cancer?
  • Other medical history
If you do not have all of the information, do not worry. You can contact your GP for this information should you need it.

The cost of your premiums will also depend on the types of life insurance you want to take out. We search our roster of insurance companies on your behalf, so we can find you the best policy at the best price.

Getting a life insurance policy in place shouldn’t be difficult, which is why The Insurance Surgery makes it as easy and pain-free as possible for you. Every customer is treated as an individual, with different circumstances that we can discuss with you to find the best policy for you.

Start the application process today by filling in our online form here, or calling 0800 083 2829.