Skin Cancer and Skin Care
Two out of three people have some form of skin cancer by the age of 70, and is one of the most prevalent cancers worldwide. One of the most common culprits of skin cancer is excessive exposure to the sun.
UV radiation is strongest at midday, the sun gives off its strongest rays between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm The sun is harshest during the summer months and therefore the most dangerous to the skin. Sunburn can occur within 15 minutes and the damage is permanent, irreversible, and adds up with each exposure to the sun.
It’s still possible to get sunburn even on cool, cloudy days, UV rays pierce through clouds, take care even on overcast days.
Those who spend more time in the sun are obviously at higher risk, anyone can be exposed to intense levels of UV radiation, just walking the dog or enjoying a picnic. 50% of sunburn occurs during everyday activities.
People with blonde or red hair and light skin, freckles, and green or blue eyes are more at risk for sunburn and skin damage and need to take extra care. Those with darker skin are less susceptible as their skin contains more natural melanin, that protects against sun damage, however, everyone is at risk from the harsh African sun no matter how light or dark their skin.
Skin cancer is dangerous even deadly and might go undetected till it’s too late. Sunburn damages the skin cell DNA increasing the risk of developing melanoma and other types of skin cancer.
There are three types of skin cancer:
Its important to note that 1 in 14 men get skin cancer. Men spend more time outdoors for work or sport, and are less likely to use sunscreen or other forms of protection. They also tend not to do skin checks, leaving any skin damage undetected till its irreversible.
Moles that appear raised or firm, changes in pigmentation (colour), dark streaks or masks under the nails, skin rashes, scaly patches that don’t go away with moisturizers, changes in eye sight (melanoma can affect the eyes) and chronic itchiness are all signs of skin cancer. Do body checks regularly for skin damage and take action immediately.
Children should never get sunburn at any age. Babies under 6 months should be kept out of the direct sunlight. Protect them by dressing them in protective clothing and a hat with a brim, keep them in the shade as much as possible. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months as there may be side effects due to their sensitive skin.
Older children and teens should take special care when spending time in the sun. Two blistering burns before the age of 18 can increase the risk of skin cancer in later life. Children and teens should use approved sunscreen before school and sport. Beach and picnic days are when children are exposed to more sun, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
The harmful effects of the sun on young children are, damage to the eyes, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn and heat rash. Keep children hydrated, ensure they wear sunscreen, hats and close-knit clothing. Remember children learn by example, protect your family from the harsh African sun, be sun smart at all times.