Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Importance of Sun Protection.

All my life I've suffered from getting sun burnt, I have pretty fair skin and used to have bright blonde hair as a kid. But I never really took the risks of sun exposure seriously until it effected my family. So today I just want to talk to you a little bit about sun protection, and why it's so important to cover up and use that sunscreen, and get your skin and moles checked every so often.

When we were living in Australia we got one of those phone calls that you don't really expect to get. Just before we left we'd had an AWESOME leaving party with all of my mum's side of the family, they threw us this huge going away party and everyone was there and it was just so much fun. Less than a year later our family were mourning the loss of my aunty. She was in her early forties and had two children under the age of 21 and a baby grand-daughter. We didn't even know she had skin cancer, one day she just collapsed, was rushed to hospital, and just weeks later she had passed away.

That was about eight years ago now, and just six years later skin cancer would hit our family again. Ever since Aunty Lyn passed away I've been super careful with my skin. I slather on suncream, cover up where I can, and on the few times I've gotten burnt it's scared me so much I've burst into tears. So when I spotted a mole on my Mum's arm that didn't look right, I told her to get it checked out.

It was on the top of her arm towards her back, so she couldn't see it. I described how it looked to her (raised and discoloured, it just looked really nasty and infected or something), and the next day she got an appointment at the doctor, and he sent her for removal and a biopsy. It was melanoma.

All of a sudden our entire world was shaken, and I was terrified that the same thing would happen to my mum that happened to Aunty Lyn. But I didn't tell anyone. I'm still not sure why, but I just didn't want anyone to know, and didn't want to tell anyone. So I told two people (Sid, my doctor friend, and Peter, who knows everything...because, well, he's one of the most important people in my life), and ignored it. I think mostly I just didn't want to admit that it was happening.

Luckily everything was OK. Mum went into hospital and had a large section of her arm cut out around where the mole had been. She was left with a huge scar and dent in her arm - like it actually looks like something has bitten her (sorry mum, but it's true - just tell people you got bitten by a shark in Aus), but she's ok and that's the main thing. The surgery got all of the melanoma, and she then had to go for a check-up at the hospital every 3 months to check all of her moles and make sure it hadn't come back or spread. Now that it's been two years she only has to go back to the hospital for check-ups every two years.

However, both myself and my mum think this is too long between check-ups, and with me being paranoid about my moles these days, I went to check out the Cadogan Clinic's Mole Mapping service. They invited me along to review it, and I've been meaning to get my moles checked for a while now, but it's tough to get an appointment at the doctors, and all they do is look at the ones that concern you, so I booked my appointment at the Cadogan Clinic on Sloane Street and went along after work one day. 

Mole Mapping

The whole appointment only lasted around 30mins, but was incredibly thorough and such a relief. It took a huge weight off my mind. I have quite a few moles on my body, including a couple of large ones on my arms, and one on the bottom of my foot. They're not raised, but a couple are irregularly shaped and had changed size, so I was a bit concerned about them.

I was taken through to a room and I stripped down to my underwear, then put a hospital gown on. The dermatologist came back into the room and slowly checked over my whole body, asked me questions about my family history, any concerns I had, and reassured me that all of my moles looked completely fine! Phew! She checked each mole with a dermatoscope to magnify the structures of the moles and the skin, to see if there was any sign of cancer or any other irregularities. 

I then went through to another room for the mole mapping. You stand in your underwear in front of a camera, and it gradually goes over your body taking super high-res photos of you. This part is pretty horrific...I mean the lighting is NOT flattering, and you have to stand in weird positions so the camera can accurately photograph your whole body. It's pretty clever stuff though! The photos taken will then be overlaid against the photos they take when I return next year. I reported my experience back to mum and she's going to book in for an appointment!

Sun Protection

So, how can you protect your skin in the sun? I feel as though I've tried every suncream out there, and there are only two that really work for me. One is only available in Australia, and is called Auscreen, and is super hard to find so when I do find it I stock up. The one available in the UK is Ultrasun, which was kindly sent to me, but which I'll be repurchasing as it really is the only one that properly works on me and doesn't give me a rash, as my skin is super sensitive. It also stops me from burning and doesn't turn clothing yellow. (FYI: the absolute WORST is Boots' Soltan. I got burnt after 15mins of having it on, and it turned ALL of my clothes yellow!). 

As you know I suffer badly from eczema and have really sensitive skin. I often get rashes from suncream and it really irritates my skin, but the Ultrasun products for sensitive skin are brilliant and I had no issues whatsoever, especially with the face and eye creams, and I highly recommend them for anyone who suffers from eczema and sensitive skin like me.

I hope this post has been useful - please please protect your skin this summer and make sure to wear sunscreen every day, even if you're not going to be outside much!


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  1. You're right, sun protection is so, so important!

  2. You should probably disclose that this is a sponsored post/advert:

  3. I've always been very diligent about applying sun cream and I think it's one reason my skin is still quite youthful. Mr S's family are the opposite and I think their skin looks older than my family's. My mother in law had skin cancer and had to have the tip of her nose cut's a real lesson and I'll definitely make sure my children protect themselves.

  4. Hi John, this isn't a sponsored post. I haven't been paid any money for it by either of the brands discussed in the post, and I disclose on my 'PR' page that links on the site may be affiliate links.

  5. I wish your Mum continued good health, it must have been a very worrying time for you all.

  6. I'm also ADAMANT about sun protection. Being Asian it's less of a health thing but more about cultural vanity (nobody wants to be a shade of 'peasant'). People snicker at me wearing fake tan and then covering myself head to toe in SPF50 but I'll be the one chuckling when I age well, and healthily! Good on you for blogging about this - I think too many people aspire to 'bronze up' so they forget to put down the Banana Boat and think about the long-term effects on their health. x

    Posh, Broke, & Bored

  7. I've been interested in mole mapping for a while, but I heard some cautionary tales about places where they just take a couple of photos and that's it - they're not reviewed by an expert, and neither is your skin. So I'm pleased to hear this place does a thorough job. Luckily enough my sister is a GP and my brother in law is a melanoma specialist so I rely on that instead. I'm sure they don't mind...!

  8. Hi Catherine, Have you tried their tinted SPF facial moisturisers at all? Or do you tend to avoid tinted moisturisers with your eczema? I'm also of the sensitive skin inclined too. Thanks,

  9. I really got the same problem. I probably got 1000 moles on my body - most of them quite tiny. but i am going to a check up each year and they had to cut out a couple over the years that looks suspicious. Nothing ever happened.

    sun protection is so important. thing is. newest research shows, that people with a lot of moles aren't more prone to skin cancer than others (funnily enough they reach a higher age, on average).

    my only problem is. They charge me for the mole mapping - which is ridicilous because I know basically no1 who has more moles than me.

    my only advantage: my skin is so fair, that on most pictures you don't see the moles because the surrounding skin reflects so much. hahaha


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