Facts: Health experts hoping to shine light on baffling skin cancer figures in Uttlesford

PUBLISHED: 07:02 31 January 2014

Incidences of skin cancer in Uttlesford are among the highest in the country – a phenomenon that has baffled medical experts.

Risk factors for skin cancer

• The most common causes of skin cancers are ­exposure to natural sunlight and light from sunbeds. Both of these contain ultraviolet radiation which can cause skin cancer.

• Exposure to strong sunlight has become more common in recent decades as people take more foreign holidays and sunbeds have become more popular.

• Many sunbeds produce more ultraviolet radiation than is found in natural sunlight, even in the hottest parts of the world.

• Using sunbeds, even ­without burning, can put you at risk of skin cancer.

• Some people are at greater risk of skin cancer than others.

• Those with light skin or skin than burns easily are at particularly high risk.

• People with large, ­unusually shaped moles may also be at higher risk of skin cancer.

The district had the fifth most cases per 100,000 people between 2008 and 2010, trailing only Purbeck, Dorset, Teignbridge, Devon, Torbay, Devon, and the New Forest, Hampshire.

It equated to about 22 people each year.

Bosses at the West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (WECCG), the body responsible for ‘buying’ healthcare services for the Uttlesford area, are currently working with public health officials to establish why ­the incidence of skin cancer is so high in the district.

Dr Christine Moss, clinical ­director at the WECCG, told the Reporter: “We know from the health profiles for Uttlesford that incidents of skin cancer in this area are amongst the highest in the country.

“The reasons for this are not clear at the present time but we are ­working closely with our public health colleagues and other partners on this important issue.”

One school of thought, mooted by medical practitioners approached by the Reporter, is that people living in Uttlesford have a higher disposable income than other areas of the ­country – leading them to take more foreign holidays and spend longer in the sun.

Another cause of skin cancer is exposure to light from sunbeds.

However, there is no evidence to suggest frequent use of sunbeds is the root cause of high skin cancer prevalence in Uttlesford.

Dr Moss said: “I would urge ­residents to ensure they are aware of the risk factors and follow advice on how to avoid skin cancer.

“NHS Choices also has lots of useful information on ­nhs.uk/conditions/cancer-of-the-skin/pages/

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