Health experts are urging men in the South East who spend a lot of time outdoors to protect themselves against the sun and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer rates are higher than average and rising in the South East, and the NHS Cover Up, Mate campaign – supported by the NFU and Mole Valley Farmers – is targeting male outdoor workers, including farmers, who often don’t use suncream.
The warning comes as new data suggests the danger is not confined to the height of summer. Public Health England statistics also show that many areas across the south have higher rates of malignant melanoma than the national average.
Between 2005 and 2014, incidence of malignant melanoma in men rose by 47.3% in the South East. Deaths by malignant melanoma in this time also rose by 34.6% in the South East.

Cancer Research UK statistics show that:

  • a tan is a sign of skin damage – not health – and may offer only factor three protection;
  • getting painful sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer;
  • you’re at higher risk of skin cancer if you have fair skin, moles or freckles, red or fair hair, or light coloured eyes; and
  • the highest risk months in the UK are May to September when ultra violet (UV) rates are higher.

NHS advice on staying safe in the sun is: spend time in the shade if you can; make sure you never burn; cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses; and use at least factor 15 sunscreen.

NFU South East regional board chairman, Julian Gibbons, said: “It’s vital that farmers get sun smart and take steps to protect their skin – such as using suncream and wearing a cool shirt, or t shirt, and a hat. All these measures can help to prevent sunburn in the first place and avoid the UV damage that can lead to skin cancer over time.”

The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat, so see your GP as soon as possible if any moles or freckles change size or shape.

Head of communications and agricultural affairs at Mole Valley, Julie Edwards, said: “As a farmer owned business, Mole Valley Farmers is keen to support this initiative. Applying sun cream before working outside is not always uppermost in many farmers’ minds as they head out the door in the morning. However, this is a preventable disease and we are keen to do what we can to to try to reduce the incidence of skin cancers.”