Why St Albans and Harpenden residents may be more at risk from skin cancer

Matt Adams undergoes mole screening

Matt Adams undergoes mole screening - Credit: Archant

Time-poor but cash-rich residents of St Albans and Harpenden are more at risk from skin cancer, and should check regularly for any anomalies, a local pharmacist has revealed.

Graham Phillips, owner of the Manor Pharmacy group which has branches across the district, was warning about certain demographic groups who were more pre-deposed to suffering from the condition.

He explained why those people with high incomes but busy lifestyles were often affected: “The tendency is for little time for regular but short periods of sun exposure, which is not only protective from skin cancer, but is essential for Vitamin D production.

“Their holidays tend to be two weeks in the sun, and of course it’s de rigeur to return with a tan as proof of having a good holiday, so they are literally dying for a sun tan. When I looked at the local health profiles a few years ago, the rates of skin cancer were far higher than surrounding areas and way above the UK average.”

Outside workers who remove their tops at the first sign of sun, fail to use any protection, and then burn to a crisp before tanning are also at risk.

But Graham revealed men in general do worse than women when it comes to skin cancer: “This is because they don’t bump into the NHS for matters of contraception in their teen years or during pregnancy and childbirth later on.

“The fact that GPs tend to be open only during working hours, so a man needs to take time off work to see a doctor, compounds the problem. As a result, and this applies throughout Europe, men fair worse in terms of life expectancy - women live approx three years longer - and men fair worse in terms of every long term condition.”

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In a bid to reduce these alarming statistics, Graham’s pharmacies are pioneering a mole-screening service offering easy and accessible checks of any potentially dangerous skin changes, rather than waiting for referral by a doctor.

The pilot service is being provided by Alphega Pharmacy in conjunction with ScreenCancer UK, and uses innovative imaging technology which is non-invasive, painless and quick to perform.

The images of the moles are taken in the pharmacy using a SIAscope – an imaging device which emits light that penetrates 2mm below the surface of the skin. One scan provides five different multi-coloured images that reflect the depth and shape of the mole.

The scan is then sent to a ScreenCancer UK dermatology specialist for review, and the results are received within the week

Graham added: ““Skin cancer is a real and serious health risk, and our service will help identify life threatening moles that would otherwise be missed or delayed.

“The Alphega Pharmacy mole screening service has completed 360 scans since it was launched in 2015, a of these, six per cent of scans have identified potential skin cancer.

“These patients are referred immediately to their GP and in many cases life-threatening moles have been removed.

“The service is carried out in our private consultation room by a specially-trained member of our pharmacy team .

“We strongly encourage anyone concerned about a mole to pop in and discuss our service - no matter your level of concern.”