CANSA’s SunSmart Campaign – Be Smart in the Sun this Summer
27 October 2016 – Warm weather naturally encourages people to spend more time outside. Have fun this summer, says CANSA, however be sensible. Always remember to protect skin from the harsh African sun.
Each year during the hot summer months, CANSA steps up its skin cancer awareness communication through its SunSmart Campaign, to remind South Africans of the dangers of over-exposure to the sun. View Infographic and Slide Show…
Run from mid-November to January, which includes the end-of-year holiday season, the campaign includes beach, workplace and school activations, as well as sharing education online on CANSA’s platforms.
“Most South Africans love the outdoors, especially at this time of year,” says CANSA CEO, Elize Joubert. “Our Sunsmart Campaign’s title is really self-explanatory – we’re saying ‘have fun, but be smart about it’. We all need to be aware of the damage the sun can do, but we don’t need to fear it. You can enjoy the outdoors without suffering from sun burn, as long as you are SunSmart.”
Non-Melanoma & Melanoma Skin Cancers on the Rise
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades. At least 20 000 South Africans are diagnosed each year with non-melanoma skin cancers and a further approximately 1 500 are diagnosed with melanoma. The WHO further estimates that that a 10% decrease in ozone levels, will result in an additional 300 000 non-melanoma and 4 500 melanoma skin cancer cases globally.
There are two main categories of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma, is less common than non-melanoma cancers, but is the most dangerous. Non-melanoma skin cancers mainly comprise ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma’ (BCC) and ‘Squamous Cell Carcinoma’ (SCC). BCC is the most common and the least dangerous. (Read the latest skin cancer fact sheets here…)
Who Is At Risk?
People at high risk include those with:
- Fair skin that burns easily in the sun
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
- Lots of moles, that is, more than 50
- And those who are being treated with immuno-suppressive drugs
If you are at high risk, you should make protecting your skin in the sun a priority. In addition, try to get as much vitamin D as possible from sources other than the sun, such as, your diet and supplements.
How To Recognise Skin Cancer
You don’t need any x-rays or blood tests to find skin cancer early – just your eyes and a mirror. If you have skin cancer, finding it early is the best way to make sure it can be treated with success.
Check the moles on your skin carefully every month. Ask a family member or friend to examine your back and the top of your head. If you notice any of the following ABCDE Warning Signs, you need to see a doctor or dermatologist immediately:
A–symmetry: a mole or mark with one half unlike the other. Common moles are round and symmetrical.
B–order irregularities: scalloped or poorly defined edges. Common moles have smooth and even borders.
C–olour variations and inconsistency: tan, brown, black, red, white and blue. Common moles are usually a single shade of brown or black.
D–iameter: larger than 6 mm.
E–volving: changes in the shape, colour or border of a mole.
“The key message is that everyone is at risk of getting skin cancer, it doesn’t matter how old you are, your skin type or where you live,” says Joubert. “It’s up to you to work to lower the skin cancer risk. Ensure you are protected in the sun, know your family history and skin type and do your monthly mole check.”
Preventative measures include: eating a diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, and vegetables. They all contribute to fighting free radicals, which lowers the risk of cancerous cell growth. Always apply sunscreen regularly (SPF of 20 – 50) according to skin type. People with fair skin have a higher chance of getting skin cancer, while dark-skinned people are still at risk. Darker skin has more protective melanin pigment and the incidence is lower in dark skinned people. However, skin cancers do occur and they are often detected at a later, more dangerous stage.
“Also remember that sunless tanning has not been scientifically proven to stimulate the production of melanin in the skin and does not provide protection against the ultraviolet rays of the sun,” concluded Joubert.
CANSA has five mole-mapping dermoscope devices called the FotoFinder used to examine moles and help reduce the risk. Every client with suspicious skin damage is referred for an intensive skin evaluation. Examinations are available at some CANSA Care Centres.