July 2021

Hugh Daly shares his skin cancer story as a warning to other outdoor workers to take sun safety seriously

Whilst I am in good health today the everyday thought of re-occurrence of cancerous melanoma’s hangs heavy. I was first diagnosed in 2011 after my wife saw a mole on my back that had turned black and had jagged edges. After a short internet search, we decided I should go for a check-up.  In short, the appointment was made and followed by a blur of activity from the NHS that resulted with me in hospital for two weeks having my entire lymph node systems removed from under my right arm.

Without this treatment I would be dead. Without constant checking from my wife and regular NHS checks I would be dead.

Hugh Daly

A lack of sunscreen in my teens and early twenties

My skin cancer was undoubtedly caused by being sunburnt early in my teens and my twenties. I am an Irishman with a fair complexion. I was an extremely active lad, a farm worker, and would spend all day with my shirt off basking in the direct sunlight.

As soon as we had the first bit of sun in April/May time my shirt would be straight off, trying to catch a tan! This would result in me going red, being burnt, my skin shedding, more burning and eventually having some colour to impress all around on how fit and healthy I was! (Oh, the irony!) It was, (and still is to some), a badge of honour to be tanned and a snub to those pasty white office boys! It was deemed attractive and eye catching to have a great tan. by October I would be back to being lily white. 

Hugh with his wife in Turkey, 1993

I never have, and never would, actively sunbathe on holiday or a beach as that was just a waste of precious time. I have travelled in very hot countries and where it was allowed always had my shirt off and shorts on. I stopped this process in my early thirties when I became a little ‘heavier’ shall we say and became more office based than hands on working.

Since my first operation I have had two more scrapes, I had the other sentinel node removed in my other arm after my wife found another suspicious mole the size of a pencil head. Last year a cancerous mole on my neck was removed, but fortunately was removed quickly enough with no further consequences. I feel it’s only a matter of time before it bites me again.

Skin cancer in the family

Lastly and by no means least My 21-year-old daughter, Florence, has just had an operation to remove a cancerous melanoma form her knee and three nodes from her groin area. Florence will need to go back for further testing. She, like me, has worked and been outside since she was very young and already has skin cancer.

One of Hugh's team

Sharing my skin cancer story to help other outdoor workers

We work in the construction industry and as main contractors responsible for our workers health and safety, we really want and need to promote the dangers of skin cancer. This is why I’m sharing our stories to emphasise to our team that this is something they really need to be aware of.

Working with the British Skin Foundation

We’re working with the British Skin Foundation to supply literature to all our staff and help to spread the word on the dangers of the sun’s UV rays to encourage sunscreen use. We have a blanket policy of at least t-shirts on in the summer as well as promoting the use of hats. However, we are also dedicated to spreading more awareness of sun safety within our workforce and associated sub-contractors.

Where appropriate in the summer months, our workforce will start work at 5.30am to finish early and avoid the worst of the sun and heat.

When I was young no-one used sunscreen and you couldn’t exactly ask your mate on site or on the farm to slap some sun cream on, it just wasn’t the manly thing to do and sadly it’s still an issue today.

Hugh Daly, Equus Design & Build

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