Sunburn doesn’t just happen on holidays says NI skin cancer survivor

After NI got a brief sample of the heatwave that is affecting the rest of the UK and Europe, a Bangor skin cancer survivor is urging people to enjoy the sun safely this summer.

By Graeme Cousins
Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 2:51 pm

Gary Graham was successfully treated for skin cancer in 2021, having been pushed by his wife to visit his GP about a spot on his head.

Now the 62-year-old is determined to raise vital awareness as UK skin cancer rates are rising, particularly in men.

He said: “I hope I can encourage people to think about their sun habits and take precautions. Sunburn doesn’t just happen abroad or on summer holidays. It can happen in the UK, even on a cloudy day.

Gary Graham was successfully treated for skin cancer in 2021, having been pushed by his wife to visit his GP about a spot on his head

“It’s tempting to want to make the most of warm weather, but getting sunburned increases your chance of getting skin cancer – so it’s really important that people take care.

“Now I try and spend some time out of the sun, wear a hat, make sure my shoulders are covered and that I’ve got my sun cream with me.”

Gary noticed a spot on his head, which had been there for about four months, but like many men he shrugged it off as nothing to worry about.

He is the first to admit now that he owes his successful outcome to his wife Shirley, who pushed him to see his GP.

Not wishing to trouble his doctor due to the added pressure of Covid, Gary emailed him a photograph. He subsequently received a phone call saying he had been red flagged for a hospital consultation, where he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma – a type of skin cancer which forms in the middle and outer layer of the skin.

Gary said: “This was in June 2021 and I was fortunate that within a short space of time I had the spot removed and a biopsy carried out.”

Further biopsies gave Gary the good news that the cancer had not spread and surrounding areas were clear.

He commented: “I realise now I was very foolish. Despite being bald I spent years sitting in the sun without protecting my head by wearing a hat.

“Cancer was the last thought in my mind and I thought I would be bothering my doctor unnecessarily and it is thanks to my wife Shirley that my cancer was caught early and treated successfully.

Gary has joined forces with partners Cancer Research UK and NIVEA Sun, who are offering advice and tips on how people can protect their skin from the sun’s rays.

Their top tips are to seek shade between the hours of 11am to 3pm in the UK, to cover up with clothing and to regularly apply sunscreen.

For more information and tips, visit cruk.org/sunsafety