Skin Cancer

Based on your responses, you have a mole that needs to be checked by a doctor, who will ask you questions and examine you. They will ask you about any recent changes to your mole and when the changes started. They may also ask you about your family history to find out how likely you are to be at risk of a cancerous mole (malignant melanoma). The earlier a mole is checked, the easier it is to treat. If you are worried, go see your doctor as soon as possible.


Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. There's no safe or healthy way to get a tan. A tan doesn't protect your skin from the sun's harmful effects. Aim to strike a balance between protecting yourself from the sun and getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Sun safety tips

Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest.

Make sure you:

  • you never burn
  • cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
  • take extra care with children
  • use at least factor 15 sunscreen for UVB protection
  • use at least four-star UVA protection If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, sunscreen needs to be applied twice:
  • 30 minutes before going out
  • just before going out

Swimming and sunscreen

Water washes sunscreen off, and the cooling effect of the water can make you think you're not getting burned. Water also reflects ultraviolet (UV) rays, increasing your exposure.

Water-resistant sunscreen is needed if sweating or contact with water is likely. Sunscreen should be reapplied straight after you've been in water – even if it's "water resistant" – and after towel drying, sweating, or when it may have rubbed off.

Children and sun protection

Take extra care to protect babies and children. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.

Children aged under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight. Apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet, and backs of hands.

To ensure they get enough vitamin D, all children under five are advised to take vitamin D supplements.

Who should take extra care in the sun?

You should take extra care in the sun if you:

  • have pale, white or light brown skin
  • have freckles or red or fair hair
  • tend to burn rather than tan
  • have many moles
  • have skin problems relating to a medical condition
  • are only exposed to intense sun occasionally – for example, while on holiday
  • are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
  • have a family history of skin cancer

Protect your moles

If you have lots of moles or freckles, your risk of getting skin cancer is higher than average, so take extra care.

Keep an eye out for changes to your skin. Changes to check for include:

  • a new mole, growth or lump
  • any moles, freckles or patches of skin that change in size, shape or colour Report these to your doctor as soon as possible. Skin cancer is much easier to treat if it's found early.

Using sunbeds

There is growing evidence that suggests that people shouldn't use sunbeds or sunlamps as their use is linked to skin cancer. Sunbeds and lamps can be more dangerous than natural sunlight because they use a concentrated source of UV radiation.

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