12 December 2016

Be sun smart

The holidays are almost here and the weather is getting warmer – the perfect reason to spend time outdoors. But it’s also important to be sun smart.


“Most South Africans love the outdoors, especially at this time of year,” says CANSA Chief Executive Officer, 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 sunburn, as long as you are SunSmart.”

Read: Skin damage continues for hours after UV exposure

Types of skin cancer
Skin cancer is divided into two main categories: melanoma and non-melanoma.
•    Melanoma is also known as malignant melanoma, and although less common, is the most dangerous kind.
•    Non-melanomas mainly comprise basal cell carcinoma (most common but least dangerous) and squamous cell carcinoma.

The numbers don’t lie

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the incidence of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer is on the rise. Every year at least 20 000 South Africans are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers and about 1 500 with malignant melanoma.

With a 10% decrease in ozone levels, the WHO believes there will be an additional 300 000 non-melanoma and 4 500 melanoma skin cancer cases globally.

Be smart

 Apply sunscreen to dry skin 20 minutes before going outdoors to give the ingredients time to activate.
•    Reapply every two hours, or after swimming or exercising.
•    Wear sunscreen every day – even on cloudy days up to 80% of the sun’s rays can penetrate your skin. UVA rays are not filtered by clouds.
•    Avoid the sun between 11 am and 4 pm.
•    Wear protective clothing.
•    Babies and infants should not be directly exposed to the sun.

Read: Indoor tanning causes common skin cancers

Risk factors

“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.”

According to CANSA, people who are at high risk include:
•    Fair-skinned individuals who burn easily in the sun
•    Family history of skin cancer
•    If you have more than 50 moles
•    If you’re being treated with immunosuppressive drugs

Read: Count your moles and know your skin cancer risk

Recognising skin cancer
Check your moles monthly – ask someone to examine the parts of your body that you cannot reach or see. If you notice any warning signs, see your doctor or dermatologist immediately.

skin cancer, melanoma, sun, skincare

Read more:

How does sunscreen work?

6 of the worst places to get sunburnt

Relieving sunburn in children


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