NHS urges holiday makers to cover up in the UK sun this summer

This summer, as more of us choose to holiday in the UK and the South West of England has received an amber plus heat wave warning, the NHS is reminding everyone to take care in the UK sun.

The #CoverUpMate campaign is aimed at men, women and children encouraging those who spend time outdoors to protect themselves from the sun and skin cancer this summer. This year it is focussing on all holiday makers with the message that you should use sunscreen in the UK too.
Over the past ten years Cancer Research statistics show that the rate of melanoma skin cancer among men in the UK has increased by almost 50% and 30% for women.

Experts fear this may lead to a rise in skin cancer cases, as studies show even those who use sunscreen or limit time in the sun abroad don’t do so in the UK.

NHS England South West Medical Director Michael Marsh said:
“Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer which can develop slowly over time. When I see people with sunburn they usually say, ‘But I just stayed in the UK’.

“Yet they’ve been out all day on the beach without sunscreen and this is something you would never do abroad.

‘There are some simple steps we can take to lower the risk of skin cancer and be sun safe during a summer of staycations.”

We spoke to Luke, a GP Nurse from Bristol who was diagnosed with skin cancer aged 19:

“I first noticed a change near my eye, and made an appointment with my local GP. They didn’t seem too worried at first because I was so young, but referred me the dermatology team at Southmead Hospital to be on the safe side.

The team decided to operate, removing the mole and surrounding area and sent the tissue away to the lab to be tested. When the results came back that I had Stage 1 cancer I was at work and it came as a complete shock. I never dreamt that I would be diagnosed with the big C.

At first I didn’t tell anyone what I was dealing with; I just confided in my Mum and Dad. Even though I felt really ill, had lost weight, and was generally feeling rubbish, I was determined not to let this affect my life. So I made a conscious effort to do all the things I would usually, like going to work and spending time with friends.

Within a few days I was called in to have my third operation, and having a background in the hospital I told them to remove as much as they possibly could. They took the surrounding tissue right back to the bone under local anaesthetic.

Luckily I didn’t need any further treatment, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was given the all clear. I now have a check-up every three months where the team give me a head-to-toe examination, and take extra care to look at my head, moles and feel my lymph nodes.

I’m still surprised that my mole changed so quickly, especially as I never really spent that much time outside. Even when I went abroad I would be the one seeking shade and we always tried to avoid the peak season to ensure it wasn’t too hot. Now I’m much more cautious in the sun, even when it doesn’t feel that hot. I’m the first to put sun cream and a hat on.

Even though we might not be holidaying abroad this year, the sun in the UK is still strong and there are so many ways we can protect ourselves. Skin cancer can be avoided, so please take care this summer!

Two years later, I feel great! Work is busy, and at the weekends I’m helping deliver Covid-19 vaccinations.”

To ensure you are stay safe in the sun this summer please remember to spend time in the shade 11am and 3pm.

Make sure you:

  • spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm
  • make sure you never burn
  • cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
  • take extra care with children
  • use at least factor 30 sunscreen