Together we will beat cancer


In our first ever live Twitter interview – or Twinterview – we invited people to tweet us with questions on skin cancer – and we were kept busy with a wide range of great queries.

Our health expert Yinka Ebo was on hand to answer people’s queries:

Twitter interview – skin cancer

In our first ever live Twitter interview – or Twinterview – we invited people to tweet us with questions on skin cancer – and we were kept busy with a wide range of great queries. Our health expert Yinka Ebo was on hand to answer people’s queries:

Storified by Cancer Research UK· Thu, Feb 21 2013 04:06:19

Questions about skin cancer? Want to know about sunbeds or staying safe in the sun? Tweet your Qs to #SkinCancerQA & we’ll answer from 2pmCancer Research UK
It was set up in collaboration with GovToday.
We are starting our twitter interview with @CR_UK tweet questions by using #skincancerqaHSC Reform Series
First up was Jenny Turton, with a question about sunburn:
@CR_UK #skincancerQA I was badly sunburnt a number of yrs ago & wondered can there be long term/later/delayed problems from this?jturts
@jenny_turton The body can repair most sun damage but it’s not perfect – some damage can remain #skincancerqaCancer Research UK
@jenny_turton Protect your skin from sunburn to avoid further damage and get any unusual changes checked by your GP #skincancerqaCancer Research UK
Having been sunburnt in your past doesn’t mean you will definitely get skin cancer in the future but it will increase your risk. The best thing you can do is stay smart in the sun and make sure you don’t burn – wear a t-shirt and sunhat to protect yourself, spend time in the shade and use sunscreen with a minimum factor of SPF 15. There’s more here:
Skin Cancer – Advice on Preventing Sunburn and Enjoying the Sun Safely : Cancer Research UKSunburn increases the risk of skin cancer. Protect your skin by using shade, clothing and at applying at least factor 15 sunscreen genero…
…and this video explains what sunburn does to your skin, and why a burn from something hot isn’t the same as sunburn:
Cancer Research UK | Sunburn and skin cancer | The burning issuecancerresearchuk
Next up – a couple of questions about sunbeds:
@CR_UK is controlled artificial sun less risk than sunbathing?chellep
Sunbeds aren’t a safe option #skincancerqa RT @parrclarke Is controlled artificial sun less risk than sunbathing?Cancer Research UK
(We’ve got more info about sunbeds here)
#SkinCancerQA if I go on the sunbed for 12 minutes 3x a week will I get a nice tanclaire
@clairefkjdsjlf A suntan is not a sign of health – using sunbeds increases your risk of skin cancer #skincancerqaCancer Research UK
Our advice on sunbeds is clear – they are not a safe alternative to tanning in the sun.

In fact research has shown that using a sunbed once a month or more can substantially increase your risk of skin cancer. At best you’ll age and damage your skin, at worst you’ll get a cancer diagnosis. Using a sunbed is just not worth the risk.

But what about sunburn through glass? asked Hanife:
@CR_UK is it true that cancer causing rays can penetrate glass? #skincancerQAHanife
This was a great question. For example, some types of car window can filter out some UV rays… but is this enough to prevent sunburn or skin cancer?
Some types of glass act as filters but they should not be considered as protection from the sun #skincancerqa @hani_mCancer Research UK
.@hani_m You should protect your skin with clothing or sunscreen when spending any length of time exposed to indirect sunlight #skincancerqaCancer Research UK
Then had a question about the signs of skin cancer:
#skincancerQA how do you know signs of skin cancer? @CR_UK’BèckssMartin
@BeckaPee See your GP if you notice moles or patches of normal skin that change in size, shape or colour over weeks or months #skincancerQACancer Research UK
@BeckaPee More info on what to look out for on our website: #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
There are a number of pages on our website that will help you to spot unusual changes that could be cancer – for example, here are some examples of unusual moles. 
Pictures of abnormal moles : Cancer Research UK : CancerHelp UKThis page has pictures of abnormal moles, to try to give you an idea of what to look for.
But the list is not exhaustive and you know your skin better than anyone. If you notice something that looks or feels unusual, then visit your GP straight away. The discussion then turned to sunscreen:
#SkinCancerQA somebody told me that a sunscreen above factor 30 is a waste of time, is this true?Emma Spry
.@emsspry An SPF15 sunscreen filters out 93% of UVB radiation, while an SPF30 sunscreen filters out 96%. #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
.@emsspry No sunscreen no matter how high the factor can provide 100% protection. Use shade & clothing #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK recommends that people should always use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15.

But no sunscreen, whether it’s factor 15 or 50, will provide the protection it claims unless it is applied properly. So it’s important that you apply sunscreen generously and regularly.
Here’s an article from our blog from a few years ago on the subject:
Which sunscreens to use?The UK product-testing charity Which? have launched a new report, which shows that some sunscreen brands are offering less protection tha…
Are commercial ‘mole checking’ services worth it?
@CR_UK #SkinCancerQA Is paying for a ‘mole mapping’ service beneficial in detecting skin cancer or is it just a money making scheme?Spongebob
.@Spongebobflange If you’re worried about a mole or any change to your skin, then you should consult your GP – it’s free! #skincancerqaCancer Research UK
@CR_UK I have lots of moles in places I cant see well to keep track of them. So would mole mapping be better in my case? #skincancerqaSpongebob
@Spongebobflange Hard for us to comment on specific cases so best to ask your GP what is best for you #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
Mole mapping involves periodically taking images of your skin to build up a map of the number, size and location of any moles you have. If any changes occur then these can sometimes be picked up by comparing the images taken of your skin. But these tests are only useful if they pick up changes quickly – a lot can change in a short amount of time. This is why we don’t have a skin cancer screening programme.

Medically approved skin scans can be expensive but don’t try to save money by relying on cheap apps to detect skin cancers.  These are usually unreliable and can lead to missed cancers or unnecessary worry – as this news story reports. 
US researchers warn against apps to diagnose skin cancer : Cancer Research UKUS researchers warn against apps to diagnose skin cancer Smartphone apps that claim to detect skin cancer could delay proper medical diag…
If you think that you might benefit from a skin scan then consult your doctor and discuss the options available.

Gorlin syndrome is an inherited condition that means people develop lots of non-melanoma skin cancers… Beverly had a question about it:
@CR_UK #SkinCancerQA I have Gorlin’s syndrome. Is it possible I will carry on getting BCC’s for the rest of my life?Beverley Thompson
@bevthompson80 You can find more info about Gorlin’s syndrome here (…cont)Cancer Research UK
@bevthompson80 Good news is, there are new treatments in the pipeline: Research UK
In fact, around 90 per cent of people with Gorlin syndrome will develop multiple basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), beginning in their early thirties. These cancers are not life-threatening and the normal treatment for them  is surgery. But the good news is new treatments are being developed. The drug vismodegib has shown promise in clinical trials, where it effectively stopped the formation of BCCs in patients with Gorlin syndrome.

We have more information on our skin cancer treatment page dedicated to people with Gorlin syndrome.
The questions were still coming in – here’s the next one:
@CR_UK #skincancerqa For long-term, large-area eczema sufferers, is there a less risky alternative to sun exposure for relief from symptoms?Wil Martens
There is some evidence to suggest that sunlight can alleviate the symptoms of eczema but this has to be balanced with the risks of UV exposure. More research is needed in this area – it may be that the vitamin D we produce from exposure to sunlight is having the beneficial effect, in which case supplements may be able to play a similar role, but without the risk of skin cancer. Here’s the 140 character version of that response:
@AngelWil1980 Our nurses can help with this. Call freephone 0808 800 4040. Also worth checking with @eczemasociety or your GP #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
Our colleagues at GovToday then tweeted a question:
In OZ they run a campaign for highlights three steps to prevent skin cancer. What skin cancer campaigns do we have? #skincancerqaHSC Reform Series
.@HSCSeries SunSmart is the UK’s national skin cancer prevention campaign. Check out our website: #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
We’re also running the R UV UGLY? roadshow for the second time. As part of thecampaign, people have been offered free cosmetic skin scans at sk:n clinicsacross the country.  Specialist skin-scanning technology highlights the hidden cosmetic damage lurking beneath the skin’s surface, suchas pigmentation and premature wrinkles, caused by overexposure to UV both fromsunbeds and the sun.
Ipek had a question about sunbed damage:
does the skin ever recover from damage caused from a sun bed? if so, how long does it take? @CR_UK #skincancerQAIpek Tugcu
.@IpekTugcu1 The body can repair most UV damage but it’s not perfect – some damage can remain #skincancerqaCancer Research UK
.@IpekTugcu1 Using a sunbed just once a month or more can increase the risk of melanoma by more than half, and cause premature skin ageingCancer Research UK
This is an important point: research released earlier this year showed that nine in 10 sunbeds emit UV radiation that is above the British and EU standard, with a cancer risk double that of spending the same time in the Mediterranean midday summer sun. Watch this video to find out more:
CRUK | Research | 9 in 10 Sunbeds emitting UV radiation over British and EU limitcancerresearchuk
But do people know about this, asked GovToday?
@CR_UK Is this well known across beaches, tourism boards, is there leaflets signs at the beach, education in schools? #skincancerqaHSC Reform Series
@HSCSeries We provide info for schools, workplaces & tourist boards. You can download resources here: #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
Neil wondered if this was a bit of a fuss about nothing, especially given the British weather in February:
@CR_UK its only February.. Calm down, no one in their right mind will be going out without a coat.neil hanman
@neilhanman We’re also advising people to avoid sunbeds #SkinCancerQACancer Research UK
@CR_UK could you help me? How/why does sitting in the sun or overuse of sunbeds cause cancers? Info please!neil hanman
@neilhanman Like the sun, sunbeds emit harmful UV rays which damage DNA in our skin cells and can cause skin cancer Research UK
As we said earlier, the evidence between UV exposure and skin cancer risk is incontrovertible. That’s why it’s so important to protect your skin when out in the sun and avoid using sunbeds, particularly for those under the age of 35.

And here’s a very common question – what about darker skin?
RT@CR_UK: Tweet your Qs to #SkinCancerQA & we’ll answer from 2pm<<Black people DO NOT need to use suncream/sunblock do they?? #MELANINTama-ra-ra-ra!
@HSCSeries @TamTamsWorld Everyone, even people with dark skin, can burn if the sun is strong enough. More info: Research UK
@CR_UK @HSCSeries hmmm, so how high are skin cancer rates (caused by sun exposure) amongst black people in very hot countries?Tama-ra-ra-ra!
@CR_UK @HSCSeries also, how does the risk of sunburn & skin cancer compare to the dangers of vitamin D deficiency for black people? Thanks.Tama-ra-ra-ra!
These are excellent questions! Experts have identified six main skin types and each of these has a different risk of sunburn, dependent on the UV index of the sunlight you’re exposed to. Skin cancer is less common inblack people than in fair skinned people, but black people can still developthe disease. Between 1 and 4 in every 100,000 black people are diagnosed withskin cancer each year in England.


Skin Type & Risk of Skin Cancer : Cancer Research UKExperts identify six different skin types. Match your natural hand colour to one of the photos in our skin type table. Then check the des…

We all need a bit of sun exposure to help make vitamin D, but that has to be balanced against the potential harm to your skin. Each person is different and will vary in their levels of vitamin D production and overall skin cancer risk. Black people are more likely to have low vitamin D levels and may be advised to take supplements. See your GP if you’re worried about vitamin D deficiency.


And that was that!

Thanks so much for all your #SkinCancerQA questions. If you have any more questions, our nurses can help. Call freephone 0808 800 4040Cancer Research UK
@CR_UK a very insightful skin cancer chat :-) these should be done more often. #skincancerQASamantha Fritzl
Big thanks to @CR_UK for todays live twitter interview on #skincancerqa we will be posting the full interview online shortlyHSC Reform Series