Dimmock, Titchmarsh and garden centres back anti-skin cancer campaign

Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh are joining a host of horticultural organisations in supporting 'Watch Your Back!'; a new health campaign urging men to review their sun protection habits and get their backs checked regularly for the warning signs of skin cancer.

The Garden Centres Association, Professional Gardeners Guild and National Allotment Society and among those organisations supporting the campaign which highlights findings by the National Cancer Intelligence Service that men over the age of 50 are at the highest risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. In men, the disease appears typically on the back, head and neck, in areas hard to spot, contributing to a later diagnosis than in women, making their condition harder to treat.

The campaign, devised by the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund features The Gardeners Sun Safety Code, a set of guidelines offering tips on sun protection, how and why to check skin for signs of change and what to look out for. It includes information on more common non-melanoma cancers such as basal and squamous cell carcinoma.

Dimmock said: "Gardening is a wonderful pastime and getting active outdoors is a positively healthy thing to do at any age, however we all need to be more aware of the dangers of the sun. Men especially can be reluctant when it comes to applying sunscreen, visiting their doctor or checking their skin for signs of change. With this attitude not only do we all risk melanoma, but all other sun related cancers".

Information will be available online and promoted at skin health clinics in a regional tour of garden centres from 30 April.

Titchmarch said: "We men can be guilty of believing we don’t need to worry about sun protection, especially when we hit a certain age, however this appears to be the furthest thing from the truth.  Melanoma is a terrible disease and it can destroy lives, but it is avoidable. By following these very useful guidelines you can lessen the risk of all types of skin related problems.  Get outdoors, have fun, but stay sun protected."

Gardeners are being challenged to pitch their knowledge and nerves against the UK’s smartest horticulturists by entering The Great 60 Second Gardening Quiz, sponsored by Spear & Jackson.  Simply answer as many gardening related questions as possible against the clock to find out what type of expert you rank as.

Prizes from Spear & Jackson, Thompson & Morgan, Ladival sunscreen and The Royal Horticultural Society go to the top 50 best scores. Each entry requires a £1 on-line donation with all proceeds helping raise awareness of melanoma and funding vresearch. 

To find out more about Watch Your Back! and to enter The Great 60 Second Gardening Quiz visit from 30 April: 


Top 10 sun protection tips taken from The Gardeners Sun Safety Code:

1.       Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30 and a sunblock on your ears and lips. Re-apply both every hour or so as their effects will be reduced by sunlight.

2.       Limit time spent outside in sunny weather and try and stay out of direct sunlight between 11.00am and 4.00pm.

3.       Wear clothing that protects arms, legs and hands – ideally choose a UVP branded product as this will offer higher protection.  Remember that not all colours provide the same amount of protection; wear darker colours as these will stop more of the sun’s rays than lighter colours.

4.       Plan gardening activities in advance during hot, sunny weather.  Set time aside to do indoor or shed tasks between 10am and 2pm when the sun is at its very hottest.

5.       If you are prone to sweating, choose a highly water resistant sunscreen; I recommend the type sportspeople wear.

6.       Don’t forget your sunscreen on overcast days; dangerous UVA and UVB rays still make their way through the clouds and dramatically increase the risk of developing melanoma.

7.       Sunscreens do not offer 100% protection and should be used in addition to protective clothing.

8.       When working in a greenhouse or conservatory, glass will not offer you protection from harmful rays.

9.       The shade offers protection but you are still in danger of ‘reflective radiation’ so ensure that your skin is protected, wherever you are in the garden.

10.    Your forehead, scalp and ears are high risk areas for melanoma, and even more so if you are bald or have thinning hair so don a suitable hat with a legionnaire flap at the back. This will also protect your hair from drying out and becoming brittle too.

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