It’s Hot, So Be SunSmart
25 November 2015: This will be the warmest year measured by humans on the planet, according to Dr Francois Engelbrecht from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. As many enter the summer months, CANSA reminds all South Africans to be SunSmart as skin cancer remains one of the most common cancers.
What it Means to Play Safe in the Sun…
It’s so important to know the dangers of exposure to the sun and also how to reduce the risk of skin cancer which is the result of skin cell damage that begins in the lower part of the epidermis (the top layer of the skin). At least 80% of sun-induced skin damage occurs before the age of 18 and only manifests later in life.
Arlene Pullin (56), skin cancer Survivor, shares, “When I was 25, I was diagnosed with a melanoma on the back of my neck and advised to keep a check on it. And 12 years later, I was diagnosed with lymph cancer – it had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck and underarms. I’ve had four occurrences of the cancer returning over the past 31 years and each time, have won the battle. Life is a constant cycle of going for check-ups as soon as I see something that is not right. One of the effects from axillary clearance (removal of underarm glands during surgery) is that I live with lymphoedema in both arms which is a constant reminder how deadly the sun can be.”
Reducing the Risk
The good news is that the risk of skin cancer can be reduced by respecting the sun and following these tips:
- Avoid direct sunlight between 10 am and 3 pm. Stay in the shade or under an umbrella as much as possible
- Wear protective clothing; wide brimmed hats and UV protective clothes / swimsuits
- Wear sunglasses with a UV protection rating of minimum UV400
- Always apply sunscreen regularly (SPF of 20 – 50) according to skin type. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of race, age or sex. People with fair skin have a higher chance of getting skin cancer while dark-skinned people are still at risk.
- Avoid Sunbeds and Sunlamps
- Spot-the-spot: Check your skin carefully every month (follow A, B, C, D, E rules) – find more info here…
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.
People with albinism are the most vulnerable for damage by ultraviolet radiation. CANSA successfully lobbied and helped to ensure that the government now supplies approved sunscreen (aligned to the CANSA Seal of Recognition standards) at adequate levels of supply at public hospitals. Read more…
Get to Know the Lingo…
Knowing your skin is important, but knowing what terms like SPF, UV, UPF and spot-the-spot means, is just as important – especially when it comes to staying safe in the sun.
- SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and is usually found on sunscreen bottles – it’s a measure of how well it protects your skin against UV rays and indicates how long you could spend in the sun before burning when protected by sunscreen, compared to when you have no sunscreen on. CANSA encourages the use of SPF 20-50 according to skin type.
- UV refers to ultraviolet light emitted by the sun. UV rays have disruptive effects on skin cells, which cause sunburn, and can result in skin cancer.
- UPF is similar to the SPF indication on sunscreen, but UPF is usually found on clothing. It indicates the Ultraviolet Protection Factor of clothing, sunglasses and hats, to protect you against the UV rays of the sun.
- Spot-the-spot is a term to encourage you to do self-examinations on your skin. It’s important to keep a track of marks, moles and spots on your skin and to make note of any changes. Make sure to follow the ABCDE rules when doing these self-exams.