Photograph by Richard Walker/ www.imagenorth.net
Cancer Research UK and Liverpool City Council have joined forces and signed the first ever skin cancer pledge.
The City Council’s Public Health team will work closely with Cancer Research UK over the coming years to ensure that awareness of skin cancer is firmly on the health agenda in Liverpool.
Local business and schools will be encouraged to create shaded areas by planting more trees and adding canopies.
The Public Health team will be working with the local NHS, schools, communities, other local authorities and Public Health England to reduce the number of skin cancer cases in Merseyside and therefore save money for the NHS.
They will also work with Environmental Health colleagues and local businesses in a bid to prevent under-18s using sunbeds and inform all adults of the risks of sunbed use.
Councillor, Paul Brant, Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for health and adult social care, will also be writing to the core city councils in England to encourage them to sign the same pledge and tackle the disease.
The pledge coincides with Cancer Research UK’s ‘Own Your Tone’ campaign which challenges the belief that having a suntan is healthy and beautiful. Instead it encourages people to embrace their natural skin colour and guard it from the aging effects of the sun’s UV rays. WATCH: Bay TV report about the Skin Cancer Pledge
Justine Sheils, from Maghull, started to use sunbeds when she was aged 15.
When she was aged 35, she went to see her GP after seeing a skin cancer poster displaying a mole identical to one on her own skin.
Justine was told that the mark on her breast was a tumour. She is embarrassed to admit that she continued to use sunbeds even after receiving this news. She was referred to a specialist and sent for a biopsy which revealed she had another tumour on her back.
Justine, who works as an administrator, had the tumours removed immediately and was just starting to recover when, eight months on, she received the news that she had another tumour on the top of her head. She is now aged 45 and remains cancer free, but still carries the scars from the disease.
She said: “I am thrilled to support the skin cancer pledge as it’s important to keep reminding the people of Liverpool just how dangerous sunbeds and UV radiation can be. I had to undergo surgery and lost my beautiful blonde hair at the time just because I wanted a tan.”
Gemma Cottam, from Skelmersdale, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma last October. The 25-year-old had noticed a mole near her ear had got bigger. Despite having had the mole for a decade, it had started to catch on her hair and clothes.
She had the mole removed and biopsy results revealed it was cancerous.
She said: “It was only when I spoke to a plastic surgeon that the gravity of the situation hit me and I realised that this was a life threatening situation.
“It’s brilliant that Liverpool City Council and Cancer Research UK are working together to make a difference. In the past I enjoyed sitting in the garden to sunbathe, but now I know how to properly protect my skin whist enjoying the sun. Skin cancer can kill and it’s vitally important that people are aware of that fact.”
Cancer Research UK research nurse Ruth Stafferton, who is based in Liverpool, said: “Skin cancer can be deadly. But the vast majority of skin cancers are preventable and are primarily caused by over exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and sunbeds.
“We all need some sun for healthy bones, but when the sun is strong it’s important to look after your skin. Spend time in the shade, cover up with clothing and also use plenty of suncream with at least SPF15 and four or more stars.
“We are delighted to be working so closely with Liverpool City Council and that they are the very first council in the country to sign the skin cancer pledge. Hopefully their commitment will lead the way for other councils to get on board and tackle the disease.”
Councillor Paul Brant said: “Liverpool is delighted to be working alongside Cancer Research on this critical issue. Liverpool City Council is committed to tackling skin cancer. Signing Cancer Research UK’s pledge is a further demonstration of our continued determination to do all we can to help prevent residents getting skin cancer. Gemma and Justine’s stories serve as powerful reminders of why it is so important to help people protect their skin and enjoy the sun safely.
“We are proud to be the first local authority to sign up and I hope many other councils will follow Liverpool’s example.”
In 2001, around 45 people were diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Liverpool and this figure has now risen to around 90 people every year.*
Malignant melanoma is the second most common cancer in young adults in the UK and kills around 60 young adults (age 15-34) every year.
To find out more about the Own Your Tone campaign visit cruk.org/ownyourtone
Pictured (l-r) are Justine Sheils, Gemma Cottam and Ruth Stafferton.