It is hard to believe that this time last year we were gazing out of our windows during lockdown at the beautiful weather and trying to remember what life was like “outside”. We saw news items of deserted beaches, empty pathways and parks and shuttered cafes, wondering whether we’d ever sit in the sun outside them again.
Well here we are nearly doing so again. Now we don’t want to be wet blankets, but there are specific disorders that can be caused entirely by exposure to the sun, is hard to detect or diagnose and can develop insidiously until it is too late to do anything about it.
That disorder is skin cancer and/or malignant melanomas. We mention it now as after a year of being locked away from the sun’s cheery rays, there may well be a tendency to overdo the sunbathing and end up with something worse than strap marks from your posh swimming costume, boiled lobster coloured skin and a peeling nose.
These disorders often start off as a tiny little dot on the skin and possibly in places you can’t see yourself, such as your back, or places you might not think of looking. Like under your foot…. That dot may continue to grow unnoticed until you suddenly feel something rubbing on your clothes, or itching, or a visible patch that you thought was “just a mole” starts changing in size or colour, weeping or bleeding.
Many of these lesions as they can be called, are not malignant but benign and pose nothing more than a cosmetic problem. They can be removed if they are causing discomfort, often at a GP clinic, but do remember there will be scarring if this happens. It does also sometimes happen that a benign lesion is excised and removed in the belief that it was malignant, but often better that way round than failing to treat a malignant lesion or growth.
Although there are guidelines about differentiating between malignancies and benign lumps, lesions or changes, some do not follow the guidelines in their shape, form or behaviour and therefore do get missed or incorrectly diagnosed. Litigation can follow if a malignant lesion is incorrectly categorised as benign, but only if the GP, oncologist or dermatologist (amongst others) has acted unreasonably in doing so and has missed something no reasonable body of independent doctors would have done, or failed to do something that the same body would have done. There is very little litigation against dermatologists, to be fair.
We’re not medically qualified, so we can’t offer medical advice about skin cancer and melanomas. However there will be plenty of practical advice around now that summer will be upon us and we suggest you follow that. Some things are just common sense- use high factor suncream protection, especially on children or if you have a sensitive skin type; wear a brimmed hat; don’t sit in unrelenting sun for hours on end; use a sunshade or beach parasol; make regular checks on new or existing mole- type marks or patches on your body; if you’re at all worried, especially if you think there are changes, make an appointment to see your doctor immediately.
Or we suppose you could just sit under a wet blanket.