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No hat, no play

Slip! Slop! Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. Those are the words to a jingle that everyone knew in Australia when I was growing up in the 1980s.

We were all talking about “the hole in the ozone layer” over Australia. (I understand now that the stratospheric depletion of ozone was in fact above Antarctica, but you wouldn’t want the truth to get in the way of a good story.) At the time something had to be done about increasing rates of skin cancer. And, as far as public health campaigns went, I believe it was quite successful. The fact that it was national, on the TV and radio, meant that very few people missed the message.

That’s not to say that everyone listened. I recall my granddad spending hours in his back yard, no hat, rarely with a shirt on, most certainly without sunscreen, in the middle part of the day. He is lucky enough to have avoided skin cancer.

By and large it was taken seriously. My school even had a “no hat, no play” policy. Having to sit under a tree by yourself at lunchtime is a pretty tough lesson for a lad who’s left his hat at home.

With skin cancer rates on the rise in the UK, such measures are becoming more common here. But is public awareness as good as it might be? Holidays in sunnier climes and a penchant for tanning are contributing to the rising incidence of melanoma, as the author of this month’s Clinical focus articles explains (Types, diagnosis and prevention and Treatment). Bring yourself up to date on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer by delving into the articles and completing our Lifelong Learning modules online.

Given that pharmacies are often people’s first port of call for sunscreen, travel medicines and other holiday paraphernalia, the profession should consider its role in skin cancer prevention and screening. And Governments should reflect on it, too. Perhaps a UK-wide campaign to boost the profile of sun safety is required — with pharmacy commissioned to reinforce the message locally.

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2013.11129548

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