Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - ADVICE -

TI was a reg­u­lar user of sunbeds through­out my teens and twen­ties, which I now deeply re­gret. Now that I’m in my for­ties, I find my­self con­tin­u­ally anx­ious about my skin and wor­ried that I might be de­vel­op­ing skin can­cer. I did have one growth on my back checked out a few years ago and

thank­fully the biopsy showed that it was benign. Back then, my GP ad­vised me to keep check­ing my skin reg­u­larly but my back is cov­ered in moles and freck­les, as are my legs and arms, so to be hon­est, I don’t even know where to start in mon­i­tor­ing it. Are there any re­li­able tests I could use or

what is the best way to keep track of changes to my skin? The anx­i­ety is mak­ing me sick. HE World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has clas­si­fied UV rays from the sun and ar­ti­fi­cial de­vices as car­cino­genic. The UV ra­di­a­tion in sunbeds da­m­ages skin and is a ma­jor risk for skin can­cer. Ra­di­a­tion from sunbeds can in fact be over 10 times stronger than that of a mid­day hot Mediter­ranean sun.

If you have ever used a sunbed, your risk of melanoma is in­creased by 20pc. Those who first use a sunbed un­der the age of 35 have a nearly 60pc in­creased risk of skin can­cer. Reg­u­lar use un­der the age of 30 in­creases it by over 75pc. The in­creased use of sunbeds in younger women means that melanoma has sur­passed cer­vi­cal can­cer as the most com­mon can­cer oc­cur­ring in this age group.

Over­ex­po­sure to the UV rays is the ma­jor risk for the de­vel­op­ment of skin can­cer. Chil­dren are born with few or any moles but new ones may de­velop up to the age of 40. Nor­mal moles do change. They start flat then may rise over time be­fore flat­ten­ing out again and some­times dis­ap­pear­ing.

Skin can­cer can oc­cur on all types of skin. Those with fair skin, a per­sonal or fam­ily his­tory of skin can­cer, ex­ces­sive UV ex­po­sure, whether from sun­light or tan­ning beds, a his­tory of blis­ter­ing sun­burn, es­pe­cially in child­hood, the pres­ence of lots of atyp­i­cal moles on the body, weak­ened im­mu­nity, and pre­vi­ous ex­po­sure to chem­i­cals such as tar, petrol prod­ucts, ar­senic and soot are at an in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing skin can­cer.

The ma­jor­ity of na­tive Ir­ish peo­ple are clas­si­fied as hav­ing fair skin, which im­me­di­ately puts us at a higher risk of skin can­cer. It takes 20 to 30 years for skin can­cer to de­velop but dam­age is of­ten done in child­hood. Tanned skin is dam­aged skin.

There are two main types of skin can­cer: non-melanoma or melanoma. Non-melanoma can­cer is more com­mon, af­fect­ing just over 6,000 Ir­ish

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