Cover up mate

Spend lots of time outdoors? Cover up mate! 

As part of NHS England’s Cover Up Mate campaign, we are encouraging men who spend a lot of time outdoors, such as farmers, builders, gardeners and sportsmen, to take a safer approach to the sun to help reduce their risk of developing skin cancer. 

Skin cancer is the sixth most common cancer and the number of cases in the south west almost doubled between 2005 and 2014. A recent survey conducted by Imperial College found that there are 48 deaths, and 241 cases of melanoma skin cancer in Britain a year, caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays absorbed from the sun while at work. In fact getting painful sunburn just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.

Stay safe in the sun

People with fair skin, moles, freckles, red or fair hair, or light coloured eyes are the most susceptible to skin cancer. The advice for everyone spending time in the sun, including outdoor workers is:

  • Stay in the shade wherever possible
  • Protect yourself by wearing suitable clothing, e.g. a hat if possible
  • Wear sunglasses and sunscreen of at least factor 15 with a star rating of up to five stars
  • Reapply your sunscreen every few hours


A tan will protect me from the sun
A tan is a sign of skin damage – not health – and offers very little protection from the sun.
It's cloudy and cooler today so I won't get burnt
It’s possible to get sunburn on cloudy days if the levels of UV rays are high enough.

Signs to watch out for

There are two main types of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma.


Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin. It is slow growing and more common than melanoma. Below are some symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer.

  • A lump or discoloured patch on the skin that continues to persist after a few weeks, and slowly progresses over months or sometimes years. 
  • In most cases, cancerous lumps are red and firm and sometimes turn into ulcers, while cancerous patches are usually flat and scaly.
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer most often develops on areas of skin regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.


Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body very quickly. Below are some symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.

  • The appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. This can occur anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women. 
  • In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.
  • Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.

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.


  • In males in the UK, melanoma skin cancer is the sixth most common cancer, with around 7,700 cases diagnosed in 2014.
  • In the South West between 2005 and 2014, incidence of malignant melanoma in men rose by 45.3% compared to 22.8% in women
  • Between 2005 and 2014, deaths of malignant melanoma in men rose by 22.4% in the South West.
  • Getting painful sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
  • Incidence rates for melanoma skin are projected to rise by 7% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 32 cases per 100,000 people by 2035

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