Beauty Fights The Beast



Skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer and as cases continue to rise at epidemic proportions, it has never been more important to take charge of our own skin health and surveillance. In support of National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we talk to the UK’s leading skin cancer charity SKCIN, to find out what we can do to prevent skin cancer, why we should be regularly checking our skin for signs of change and how hair, beauty and healthcare industry professionals are fast becoming the first line of defence in combating statistics head on.


How prevalent is skin cancer in the UK?

Since the early 1990s rates of non-melanoma skin cancer have risen by 166% in the UK with cases expected to reach almost 400,000 by 2025.

The incidence of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) has risen faster than any other common cancer in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 36 males and 1 in 47 females will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime and alarmingly, it is one of the biggest killing cancers in the 15-34 age group.

Whilst skin cancer statistics are compelling, the good news is that around 90% of all cases are PREVENTABLE. In addition it is the only cancer we can physically see developing in it’s early stages, so with education, we can reverse these statistics and save many lives.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

Around 90% of all skin cancers are caused by over-expsosure to UV radiation from the sun and/or sun beds. Sunburn, reddening, peeling and even tanning of the skin, is clear indication of sun damage. While many people associate a tan with looking healthy, a tan is actually a sign that our skin has been harmed by UV radiation and is trying to defend itself against further damage.

Sunburn has strong links to melanoma. When we burn, the superficial layers of the skin release chemicals that cause the blood vessels to expand and leak fluid, causing swelling, pain and redness. Without sun protection UV radiation starts to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin, causing damage to the DNA in our skin cells. Damage from UV is cumulative and irreparable, therefore once the tan fades, the damage remains, which can result in serious consequences over time.

Is skin cancer risk determined by skin colour?

We all have varying skin colours that respond differently to UV radiation emitted from the sun. However, everyone, regardless of skin colour, can sunburn and accumulate sun damage, meaning we are all at risk from skin cancer.

Melanin – the natural pigment that gives our skin different / darker colours exists to help protect our skin from UV radiation. When we tan our skin is busy producing melanin to help protect it from the sun’s harmful rays. The darker our skin, the more melanin we have and the longer it takes our skin to burn. The paler our skin, the less melanin we have and the quicker our skin will burn.

Although, those with fairer skin who tend to burn more easily are at greater risk of skin cancer, the simple fact that our skin has changed colour (even if it tans) is a sign of sun damage. Damage is permanent and cumulative, so the more we tan or burn, the greater our individual risk of developing skin cancer.

Whilst Caucasians are the primary victims of skin cancer – everyone, regardless of skin colour, can fall prey to it. It is a common misconception that people with darker skin colours are immune to melanoma. This is one reason why people of colour are diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages. Unfortunately, these delays mean that skin cancers are often more advanced and potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers, if detected early, are almost always curable.

How should we protect our skin from UV radiation?

Around 90% of skin cancers can be avoided by adopting simple sun safe strategies. Simply check the daily UV Index and when UV levels reach 3 or above take action to protect your skin by following Skcin’s Five S’s of Sun Safety:


  • Clothing can be one of the most effective barriers between our skin and the sun and should be considered the first line of defence.
  • Clothing should always cover shoulders, but ideally as much skin as possible.
  • A closer weave fabric will provide better protection.
  • A high UPF rated fabric provides best protection.


  • Always use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or above.
  • Make sure it’s broad-spectrum and carries a UVA symbol (ideally labelled minimum 4 star).
  • Store in an accessible, cool place and remember to check the expiry date.
  • Apply a generous amount to clean, dry, exposed skin 20 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Regardless of the instructions all sunscreens should be re-applied at least every 2 hours (more often if perspiring) and straight after swimming.
  • Remember to protect your lips with an SPF 30+ lip balm.


  • Always wear a hat with a wide brim that shades the face, neck, ears and cheeks.
  • A close weave or UPF rated fabric will provide better protection.


  • Solar UV radiation can be damaging to the eyes, so wear quality sunglasses.
  • Overall protection depends on the quality of the lens as well as the design.
  • Look for the European CE mark, which indicates a safe level of protection.
  • Those labelled with a high EPF (which ranges from 1-10)  will provide best protection.
  • Ensure they are close fitting and wrap-around to stop UVR entering the top and sides.
  • Remember price has no reflection on the quality of protection.


  • Shade can provide a good barrier between our skin and the sun.
  • Seek shade whenever possible, particularly during peak UV hours 11am-3pm.
  • Keep toddlers and babies in the shade at all times.
  • Never rely on shade alone, always combine with personal protection measures.

What steps can we take to detect the early signs of skin cancer?

Skin cancers seldom hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt. The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better a person’s chance of avoiding surgery, or in the case of a serious melanoma, potential disfigurement or even death.

Getting to know your skin and regularly checking it (once a month) thoroughly from head to toe, is the best way to spot any potential warning signs.

There are lots of different kinds of skin cancers that can appear in many shapes, sizes and colours, so it’s wise to swot up on the various forms and characteristics to understand what to look out for. However, as a general rule of thumb use the following checklist and if you detect anything of concern, seek immediate advice from your GP or dermatologist.

If a new or existing skin, nail or mucosal (lips and genitalia) pigmented or non-pigmented spot, lump, lesion, mole or freckle:

  • Gets bigger and/or changes in shape, particularly getting an irregular outline.
  • Changes colour, gets darker, becomes patchy or multi-shaded.
  • Becomes elevated, firm to touch and is growing.
  • Starts to itch, gets painful, starts bleeding, gets crusty or becomes inflamed.
  • Looks or is behaving differently to the rest of your moles or skin lesions.

Is evolving in any way, such as: changes in size, symmetry, surface characteristics or symptoms

How are professionals working across hair, beauty and healthcare industries becoming the first line of defence in combating skin cancer?

Since 2018 SKCIN have been ‘training eyes to save lives’ across hair, beauty and healthcare industries nationwide. SKCIN’S MASCED (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Early Detection) accreditation programmes, trains professionals how to spot the early signs and symptoms of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer and how to confidently signpost their client’s / patient’s to seek appropriate action.

The on-line training platforms, backed up by printed learning tools and resources have been specifically designed to embrace the power of the 300,000+ professionals working across these industry sectors – all of whom who are perfectly placed to observe abnormalities or changes that may occur on their client’s / patient’s skin (often in places they can’t see themselves) and provide trusted advice in relation to signposting and prevention.

To date SKCIN have provided printed resources to over 14,000 registered professionals and fully accredited over 8,000 who are now providing a free, potentially life-saving service to well over 1 million clients /patients nationwide.

The MASCED training programmes have been reviewed by professional dermatologists and are endorsed, supported and recognised by many key industry bodies.

We receive lots of reports of skin cancers diagnosed early as a result of this training. This has attracted a great deal of national and international media interest and global participation. The following example came from a self-employed beauty therapist, with around 100 clients – highlighting the evident scope of this life-saving intervention and the value professionals working across these industries can add to the communities in which they operate.

“I’ve referred 8 clients to their GP / dermatologist since completing your course. 5 were skin cancers. Mainly melanomas. They wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t encouraged them to go. All have been so grateful. They were on the chest area, the back and a leg. Your course has saved their lives”.

To find out more, register to take part and join the growing army of MASCED Accredited professionals visit: MASCED.UK