On New Year’s Eve 2005 I lost my beautiful mum and best friend Karen Clifford (the ‘KC’ in Skcin) to melanoma, following a courageous battle against this devastating disease.
As a family, when Karen was diagnosed we knew little-to-nothing about skin cancer. Public information was limited and ignorance widespread. The pain and destruction caused by Karen’s diagnosis and subsequent death left my family feeling compelled to ensure this was not in vain. We wanted to prevent this pain for others and we embarked on a mission to find out the facts, what was being done and how we could make a difference.
Upon uncovering the facts, we were stunned to discover the rising incidence of skin cancer in the UK and the complete lack of awareness and education – it seemed the ‘skinderalla’ of all major cancers.
It was however two key facts that quite literally blew us away and they were:
- Almost 90% of all melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers are PREVENTABLE!
- Early detection SAVES LIVES.
A complete lack of common sense prevailed. There was such little charitable and government intervention for such a huge public health concern. A mammoth void existed and our mission became clear…
In 2006 Skcin; The Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity was born. Our key objectives to significantly raise awareness of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer by promoting prevention and early detection to save lives.
As a graphic designer myself with experience in marketing, alongside my father Richard Clifford (only just retired from marketing) we felt we had the combined skills and passion to get a charity off the ground with no funding.
14 years on and we are recognised as the UK’s leading skin cancer charity and we are proud to be making a huge impact nationally.
To-date Skcin have designed, developed and operate five national, educational intervention programmes that are dedicated to raising awareness of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, embedding prevention and early detection into the heart of communities nationwide.
With a passionate belief that the seeds of sun safety should be planted in pre-school and primary education, ‘Sun Safe Schools’ and ‘Sun Safe Nurseries’ were our first two accreditation programmes to launch. These bespoke, nationally accessible initiatives were designed to assist primary schools and pre-school settings in their duty of care to; safeguard children against over-exposure to UV, communicate with parents to gain support and raise awareness within the wider school community, and educate children on the importance of sun safety to influence behaviours. The programmes provide extensive FREE printed and digital resources, working with thousands of settings across the UK, to date reaching over 750,000 children and their families, nationwide.
Our third programme to launch was Sun Safe Workplaces which we developed to assist employers of outdoor workers in their duty of care to safeguard their employees against over-exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation which is a serious health and safety issue in the workplace. The programme also provides extensive resources to help employers educate their workforce on the importance of personal sun protection measures and how to check their skin for the early signs of skin cancers. This programme is currently under further development and due to relaunch in 2021 in order to recognise and accommodate the valuable contribution that business leaders both large and small can make in raising awareness amongst employees and the communities in which they operate, as part of their corporate social responsibility.
With three successful programmes underway, in 2018 Skcin launched arguably our most instantly successful intervention to date. With an evident need to considerably raise the profile of early detection, we developed the MASCED (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Early Detection) training programme to hair, health and beauty professionals nationwide.
We wanted to harness the power of the estimated 275,000 professionals working across these industries and reward them for the value they add to the communities in which they operate.
The on-line training which is backed-up by quality printed resources was an instant hit and we smashed our first year target inside our first month. The training, already reviewed and supported by professional dermatologists, quickly received industry body recognition and both national and international media interest.
I would like to share with you an email that made me cry.
“I’ve referred 8 clients to their GP / dermatologist since completing your course. 5 were skin cancers. Mainly Melanomas. They wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t encouraged them to go. All have been so grateful. They were on the chest area, the back and a leg. Your course has saved their lives”.
This was sent to us from self-employed beauty therapist Erika Hodgkiss, who has since gone on to spot several more melanoma amongst a client base of around 100. This really drove home to me that all the hard work was really paying off and the scope for these industry professionals to become a crucial line of defence in combating statistics head on was truly exceptional.
As such in 2019, we launched sister programme MASCED PRO, specifically aimed at Allied Health Professionals and medical healthcare practitioners. This was reviewed and supported by The British Association of Dermatologists and accredited by The College of Podiatry which was a huge achievement for us.
At present, we are obviously dealing with the pandemic of COVID-19 and I am quite literally blown away by the uptake of our training during such uncertain times – particularly within industries that fall under the the category of the hardest hit and most likely, longest to return to normality.
During lock-down in the UK, we have seen a massive surge in professionals who are taking the opportunity during this down-time to up-skill and take part in our training. We are busier than ever with registrations and interest from industry bodies and organisations who want to support our work and can appreciate the value it places in combatting what is a mammoth public health concern that costs our NHS hundreds of millions annually to treat.
To date we have a growing army of 12,000+ registered professionals, spanning 30 different industry professions nationwide. Furthermore, our training has received significant global interest with professionals registered in over 30 different countries globally, proving the need for such training to exist and grow to benefit the global health concern of skin cancer.
Despite our BIG ambitions and national recognition, Skcin in financial terms is a very, very small charity. Everything we have done has been on a shoe-string budget and there have been many times we have come close to closing the doors. We have had to adapt and adjust our way of working to become sustainable and this has been incredibly stressful at times. Everything we have designed has been done so to provide longevity and national accessibility so that even with a very limited income we can continue to provide the same level of educational intervention that is making such impact.
Having dedicated 14 years of my life to this cause, I certainly can’t take all the glory. I am absolutely blessed to have worked alongside some fantastic colleagues, who have helped grow and strengthen the charity to deliver our objectives. None more so than my wonderful friend Marie Tudor, now CEO of Skcin. Her passion and dedication over the last 5 years is unrivalled and we quite simply would not be where we are today with out her, she continues to inspire me every day.
I am blessed to work very closely with Marie, we share the same views, ideals and commitment – we have shared many highs and many lows and supported each other through tough times. If there is one thing I have learned throughout my years in the charitable arena which is surprisingly, unfortunately and unnecessarily competitive, it is the importance of mutual trust and respect – this will guide you through the challenging times and lead you to success.
With many more ideas brewing and in development, we continue to lead the way in bespoke educational intervention that we hope that our work will continue to gain the recognition and support required to prevent many skin cancers and save many lives.
To find out more about our MASCED training programmes which can be undertaken in the USA, please visit: masced.uk
With Love from the UK. Stay COVID safe, stay SUN SAFE and keep smiling :)
Photos courtesy of Kathryn Clifford