A straightforward message, yet one which can help to prevent serious skin cancers, along with premature signs of ageing.
There can be varied reasons for skin disorders, from infection, to genetics but a fair part of a dermatologist’s work relates to the effect of the sun. More so in places where overseas holidays are common, including Hertfordshire.
From the population of 1.2 million, over a half a million will have a skin condition of some form over the next year. This will cause around 200,000 GP visits and typically, 17,000 of those will be referred to a specialist dermatologist.
This is not because Herts citizens are unhealthy. Life expectancy is above average at 81 for men and 84 for women, participation in physical activity is good, smoking and drinking levels are below national averages.
Obesity is an increasing issue, in line with the rest of the UK, other health factors are not untypical. One problem which stands out to us is the listing in a county strategic needs assessment of malignant melanoma, as one of the fastest growing cancers.
Possible skin cancers are a prime reason for referrals, although other conditions can be difficult for GPs to diagnose. Apart from specialist skills, they lack specific diagnostic equipment, or access to laboratories used to skin disorders.
The wish to avoid risks to patients is a further factor that doctors consider. About 4000 people die each year in the UK from skin conditions, with late diagnosed melanoma holding the highest share.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment stop serious outcomes, which is the core rationale for ensuring Hertfordshire residents receive dedicated care.
Laser technology has produced confocal microscopy, an optical imaging technique to look beneath your skin. This can set aside the need for a biopsy in many cases and avoid delay in treatment that might bring.
Dermoscopy has advanced in the digital era, a system to measure micro changes in your skin’s electrical resistance can also aid diagnosis. Lasers and light based approaches such as photodynamic therapy can replace traditional surgery.
Artificial intelligence empowers software to spot small changes in the skin, genetic testing can now point to an increased risk of melanoma.
The benefits of all these aids are still best brought together by a consultant dermatologist. Their skill and experience can not be replaced by technology, although the advantage this brings is significant.
The highest incidence of skin conditions is in children, they will often be transitory but not always. Our paediatric dermatologists are there to help.
Dermatological care goes on through life, as we are all affected by the environment we live, or work in and our own make up. Notable support is offered to the 24% of Hertfordshire residents who are over 60.
A time when our lives catch up with us and when regular skin screening helps issues to be caught early, although this is valuable at any age.
We applaud the work of all medical staff in the county and are pleased to support them, or you, through specialist care. Hertfordshire dermatology matters and can make such a difference to our lives.