Institute of Genetics and Cancer

Shining a Light on Skin Cancer

The Institute and Robertson Construction Central East joined forces for the week of Melanoma Monday to raise awareness of the risks of skin cancer: May 2023

Sara Brown presenting at the Shining a Light on Skin Cancer event

At two moving and informative events at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer on 2 May, hosted by Professor Wendy Bickmore, Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit, staff and students from both organisations gathered to learn about melanoma and the cancer research behind a multi-million pound construction project on campus.

Attendees were also part of an important discussion about how we can improve our wellbeing and mental health.

The 4D Cellular Medicine (4DCM) building at the Western General Hospital site will allow scientists at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer to investigate melanoma, other cancers and genetic conditions in greater depth and detail than ever before.

The research undertaken within this new space, which will house state-of-the art facilities, will not only improve our understanding of human genetic diseases, but provide hope to people living with cancers and genetic conditions for future treatments and therapies.

Gillian Mourier, Senior Associate Architect, Oberlanders Architects LLP, designers of the building, provided an overview of the project. Daniel Gallacher, Head of Safety, Health and Environment at Robertson Construction shared his family’s experiences of having skin cancer.

In construction we have a number of individuals who are exposed to working outside. We have bricklayers, we have ground workers and they are often exposed to these kind of elements. I don’t think it would be surprising anyone to say that so much UV exposure can cause a number of health issues, not only the sun damage, sunburn and blistering, but also, undoubtedly, skin cancer.

Daniel GallacherHead of SHE, RCG & RTE, Robertson Construction

Clinical academic dermatologist, Professor Sara Brown outlined the importance of reducing the risks of skin cancer by using high-factor SPF, covering skin with appropriate clothing, utilising shade, and keeping a close eye on your skin for new or changing moles.

If you're worried about a new or changing mole, do you get it checked out - remember, it’s change in size, shape or colour. Because if you spot that change in the mole early, it's relatively easy treated. If you ignore it, that's the time that it becomes really life-threatening.

Sara BrownProfessor of Dermatology, Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine
Liz Patton presenting at the Shining a Light on Skin Cancer event

Professor Liz Patton, whose research group will be moving into the new building, went on to present an overview of melanoma research, explaining how zebrafish models can be used in biomedical research to identify new cancer therapies.

People chatting and enjoying refreshments

A second session included presentations on improving our wellbeing and mental health. Attendees heard from Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity which provides emotional, physical and financial wellbeing support to construction workers and their families. Breathing Space Scotland detailed the free and confidential psychological counselling service they offer to people feeling depressed or with other urgent mental health problems.

Attendees also heard from NHS Lothian Charity which supports local NHS patients and staff, improving health and wellbeing for the people of Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Tony McLaren presenting at the Shining a Light on Skin Cancer event

Reflecting on the coming together of the two workforces on either side of a building project which is so integral to cancer research in Edinburgh – those constructing and those who will be working in the 4DCM building - event organiser Dee Davison, Public Engagement Manager for the Institute said,

“This event provided a wonderful opportunity to bring our workforces together and provide meaningful insights into skin cancer research and the construction industry. The two sessions provided a diverse spectrum of speakers and I was delighted by the clarity of their presentations, pitched perfectly for our curious audience.

Institute staff and students learned more about what our new building is for and how it has been designed and constructed to enhance our research. Dan’s personal story was so impactful and I am grateful for his openness and honesty. Everyone was reassured to hear how seriously the construction industry takes skin protection, wellbeing and mental health. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Robertson Construction and NHS Lothian Charity in joint fundraising efforts that will support of cancer research.”

A recording of Shining a Light on Skin Cancer (Melanoma) is available to watch on the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper platform.

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