Grandmother in skin cancer message

A grandmother from East Anglia has helped launch a major national skin cancer campaign by issuing her own poignant message: "Look at me – I am still alive.

A grandmother from East Anglia has helped launch a major national skin cancer campaign by issuing her own poignant message: "Look at me – I am still alive."

Penny Hutch, 54, from Corton, near Lowestoft, was chosen as the human face of Cancer Research UK's new SunSmart campaign because she was diagnosed with skin cancer – but fully recovered due to early detection.

Yesterday Mrs Hutch was on hand at Cancer Research UK's London headquarters to help publicise the campaign launched as new figures show that thousands more Britons than Australians die from malignant melanoma every year.

Mrs Hutch, who runs Midway Nurseries, a plant nursery and garden design business, only went to see her doctor about a mole on her leg after watching a television programme about skin cancer in 1995.

Her GP did not think there was anything to worry about but referred her to a consultant dermatologist as a precaution. The consultant removed the mole, which turned out to be cancerous.

Yesterday Mrs Hutch said: "It was a lifesaver. Had I not seen the programme I would never have gone to the doctor. Really there are just a few words to sum it all up – 'Look at me, I am still alive.'"

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Mrs Hutch was invited to take part in a Cancer Research UK SunWatch skin cancer campaign held at Yarmouth last year, as reported by the EDP, and was chosen again this year to support the SunSmart launch.

Each year with summer approaching, Cancer Research UK issues strict guidelines for sun-worshippers to follow to try to avoid getting skin cancer.

This year the campaign was launched with the publication of worrying new figures which show that in Britain, 28 people die from malignant melanoma out of every 100 diagnosed.

Britain compares particularly badly with Australia. Figures show that every year 5800 British people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma and 1650 die from it compared with 7800 Australians diagnosed with 1050 dying from it. And in the last five years there have been 8100 British deaths from malignant melanoma compared to 4900 in Australia.

Dr Richard Sullivan, head of clinical programmes at Cancer Research UK, said: "Death rates from malignant melanoma have fallen in Australia, largely due to the success of its SunSmart campaigns. Only with sustained and continuous effort can we change people's attitudes towards the sun."

Melanoma is the third most common cancer among people aged 15-39 and early detection is crucial. People should seek medical advice if they notice that a mole changes shape, gets bigger, alters in colour, bleeds or becomes itchy or painful.

In the case of Mrs Hutch, because her cancer was caught so early she needed no further treatment after the removal of the mole but has continued to have regular check-ups. She no longer wears shorts in the sun and always makes sure she covers up by wearing a hat, long-sleeve shirts and uses factor 60 sunscreen.

Mrs Hutch also makes sure all her staff at the nursery are protected and when designing gardens for customers, always includes a shaded area.

This year the campaign is backed by former world champion racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart, who was successfully treated for skin cancer last year.

He said: "I know from my own experience that skin cancer can be frightening."

The new UK-wide SunSmart Campaign is funded by £120,000 from the Department of Health and £40,000 from Cancer Research UK.

For more information on the campaign visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

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