Throw Shade at Skin Cancer this Summer
6 December 2017: It’s getting hotter, and CANSA encourages the public to be SunSmarter, and throw shade at skin cancer this summer.
South Africa is ranked as a leading outdoor adventure destination with glorious weather conditions, beautiful beaches and bushveld, and yet ironically it also has one of the highest monitored ultra violet levels globally. This results in the country’s population having one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world. In 2013, according to the 2013 National Cancer Registry, 23 704 incidents of skin cancer were diagnosed (13 923 males and 9 781 females).
Frequent exposure to sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer, so it is important to remember to be responsible while having fun in the sun.
The newly crowned Mrs South Africa, Nicole Capper, a skin cancer Survivor says, “As a cancer Survivor sun protection is a massive focus for me. Being diagnosed with malignant melanoma at 25 rocked my world, but I was lucky to have caught it early enough. We’re so aware of other potential health concerns and we make sure we visit specialists annually for other standard check-ups, and yet our skin is neglected for the most part, often until it’s too late. Sunscreen is always healthy. And regular dermatologist appointments should be mandatory. We owe it to our families and communities to stay healthy, and our skin is no exception.”
There are three main types of skin cancer that can affect everyone regardless of skin type, age or ethnic background. The two most common types of skin cancer are ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma’ and ‘Squamous Cell Carcinoma’. These are linked to long term exposure to the sun, for example people with professional sports careers or outside occupations. If left untreated, these can lead to disfigurement, or the loss of an eye, nose or ear, so early detection is important.
‘Malignant Melanoma’ is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is linked with short, sharp bursts of over-exposure , so even one incident of bad sunburn, especially in childhood, can later on in life, trigger damage and develop into a melanoma. If detected and treated early, it can be successfully treated. Find more information regarding types of skin cancer on CANSA’s SunSmart web page.
People with Darker Skins also at Risk
Although people with darker skins are at a lower risk of melanoma than lighter skinned, the majority of basal cell carcinomas, in people with darker skins, occur in sun-exposed skin, indicating that sun protection is paramount, regardless of pigment.¹ In darker skins, 70% of melanomas have been reported to be below the ankle and appearing on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.²
You Can Burn in the Shade
While shade is a valuable means of protection from the sun’s UV rays, reflection from the water, sand and glass may also cause sunburn.
CANSA advocates the following to reduce skin cancer risk – view the helpful infographics:
- Avoid direct sunlight between 10:00 and 15:00, when the sun’s rays are most dangerous. Babies younger than six months, should never be exposed to direct sunlight.
- Cover up by wearing thickly-woven hats with wide brims and loose-fitting clothes made of tightly-woven fabric that is cool, but that will block out harmful UV rays.
- Look out for UV protective swimsuits and beach wear as UV radiation can penetrate fabric. Swimwear and umbrellas bearing the CANSA Seal of Recognition should also be part of your protection kit.
- Apply generous amounts of sunscreen, frequently, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) between 20 and 50, and for fair to very fair skin, between SPF 30 to 50.
- Look out for the manufacture or expiry date on the sunscreen package. Sunscreen usually expires two years after manufacture date, and once opened the product should not be used for longer than one year.
- Use sunscreen bearing the CANSA Seal of Recognition
- Protect eyes by wearing sunglasses with a UV protection rating of UV400
It’s essential that skin is regularly checked for changes, unusual marks or moles. An annual medical examination should include a skin check and also check top of the head, back, or back of the legs.
CANSA has mole-mapping dermoscope devices called the FotoFinder used to examine moles and help lower the risk. Every client with suspicious skin damage is referred for an intensive skin evaluation. Examinations are available at some CANSA Care Centres.
¹Gloster HM Jr, Neal K. Skin cancer in skin of color. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;55:741-60
²Hudson DA, Krige JE. Melanoma in black South Africans. J Am Coll Surg 1995;180:65-71
CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research (more than R12 million spent annually) and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public.
Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support and organisational management; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support.
We also supply patient care and support in the form of 11 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients; a Wellness Centre based in Polokwane; and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.
Visit www.cansa.org.za or contact CANSA toll-free on 0800 22 66 22 or email email@example.com – follow CANSA on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram. CANSA offers multi-lingual support on WhatsApp: 0721979305 for English and Afrikaans, and 0718673530 for Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati.