NHS urges beach goers to Cover Up, Mate!

This June we saw more Brits soaking up the hottest temperatures on record, and more heatwaves are set for the South West throughout the school holidays. The NHS wants parents to protect the whole family and ‘Cover Up, Mate’!

Whilst it is great to see people making the most of the UK sunshine in the South West, in these high temperatures and increased levels of UV rays, this can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer across the South West.

Over the past five years (from 2013-2017) latest data reveals 144% more people have been diagnosed with skin cancer in coastal areas across the South West such as Devon (1,527) compared to Bath (249). We have seen more people diagnosed with skin cancer in, Cornwall (997) and Somerset (881) compared to other areas like Bristol (392), and Swindon (276).

NHS England South West Medical Director, Dr Michael Marsh said: “We regularly see people carefully applying sun cream to children and making sure they are playing in the shade, but don’t often see the same precautions when it comes to adults spending time outdoors. We want to encourage everyone to cover up, weather you are routinely cycling to work or on holiday.”

Unfortunately, not all cases are able to be treated and in 2016 mortality data in the South West showed 168 male and 113 female deaths due to skin cancer.

Joanne Watson, Skin Cancer Nurse at North Bristol NHS Trust: “Skin cancer is becoming a real problem because we are living longer and taking more sunny holidays – as well as the occasional heatwave in the UK. Many people still like a ‘healthy tan’ but there is a link between sun exposure and skin cancer. Prevention and early detection is crucial in the battle against skin cancer.”

The latest statistics show that ‘early stages’ of diagnoses of malignant melanoma in the South West are which is higher than the national average across England (88% female and 86% male).

The NHS is urging everyone to take care in the sunshine this summer and official NHS advice on staying safe in the sun is:

  • spend time in the shade if you can
  • make sure you never burn
  • cover up with suitable clothing including hats and sunglasses
  • take extra care with children
  • use at least factor 15 sunscreen

The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat, so see your GP as soon as possible if any moles or freckles change size or shape.

For more advice visit or follow NHS England’s skin cancer campaign #CoverUpMate on Twitter.