Breast cancer

07 November 2006

Be sun smart this summer

Summer weather means longer days and often too much exposure to the harsh African sun, which increases your risk of getting skin cancer. Become an "under-cover" agent this summer.

Summer weather means longer days and often too much exposure to the harsh African sun, which increases your risk of getting skin cancer. Many South Africans mistakenly believe a tanned body is healthy. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a healthy tan.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa. The incidence of the disease in this country is increasing and is amongst the highest in the world. However, because skin cancer can be seen, it can be detected early and cured.

Going 'under cover'
For the second year in a row, Clicks supports the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) in urging all South Africans to be SunSmart and go under cover this summer.

Cover your skin with a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher – preferably one bearing the CANSA Seal of Recognition (CSOR).

Apply it liberally to all exposed skin – remember the back of the neck, tips of ears, arms, feet and hands. Re-apply at least every two hours and also after swimming, perspiring and towel drying. Remember, using a sunscreen is not a license to "bare all" in the sun. Go under cover in every possible way to ensure that you are SunSafe while you are out having fun.

Every Clicks store has a SunSmart advisor trained by CANSA to answer any of your questions related to protecting your skin against the harmful UV sunrays. Customers may also collect a free CANSA SunSmart leaflet at all Clicks stores. Check out the Clicks/CANSA gazebos on the beaches where a dermatologist will check your skin for warning signs.

Another way that you can go under cover is by limiting your time in the sun, especially between 10:00 and 15:00 when the sun’s rays are most dangerous. Stay in the shade as much as possible or under an umbrella. Remember, dangerous UV rays reflect off cement, water, sand, glass and grass, so you can get sunburn in the shade.

UV rays are not the same as heat – you can get overexposed even in cool weather, so take care on windy or overcast days.

Cover up with the right clothes
UV radiation can penetrate fabric. This summer SunSmart agents will go under cover by wearing thickly woven hats with wide brims and loose-fitting clothes made of tightly woven fabric that are cool, but will block out harmful UV rays.

Swimwear, umbrellas and tinted motor glass bearing the CANSA Seal of Recognition should also be part of your protection kit for Operation SunSmart. Also use sunglasses with lenses (UV400) that are recognised by CANSA for effective UV protection.

Your skin type considered
Everyone is at risk of getting skin cancer, although people with darker skins are less susceptible because their skin contains more natural melanin that protects against sun damage.

People with fair skin (especially those with red hair; moles or skin spots), a personal or family history of skin cancer; or those who play sport outdoors, work in the sun or spend a lot of time driving, are considered high-risk.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are common skin cancers. The most dangerous skin cancer is melanoma. Left untreated, skin cancer can lead to death.

"Eighty percent of sun-induced skin damage occurs before the age of 18 and only manifests later in life," says Ansie Botma, CSOR Merchandising Coordinator at CANSA.

"Therefore, it is imperative to take special care of children in the sun, whether it is at the pool, on the beach, at play or at school. Babies younger than one year should never be exposed to direct sunlight. When it comes to protecting the young ones, mothers of babies and toddlers, teachers and grannies can be particularly effective under-cover agents for Operation SunSmart."

Sun beds and tanning booths not safe
Sun beds and tanning booths deliver concentrated UVA radiation to unprotected skin and should be avoided at all costs, as it ages the skin more rapidly while putting you at risk of developing skin cancer.

"In general, one can state that the use of an artificial tanning booth will double the melanoma risk of any particular individual," says Professor Werner Sinclair, a dermatologist associated with the University of the Free State.

CANSA Seal of Recognition
This seal appears on sunscreen products, clothing, swimwear, hats, sunglasses, vehicle glass and umbrellas and is your guarantee that the manufacturers of these UV-protective products have complied with a strict set of criteria developed by CANSA in the interest of a SunSafe South Africa.

Products have to comply with the SANS Sunscreen Standard and the Australian/New Zealand UPF standard for fabrics to earn the right to bear this prestigious seal.

Spot the spot
Good agents are always on the lookout for signs of trouble. Check your skin and the skin of those you care about on a monthly basis. Get help to examine your back and the top of your head.

If you notice a mole or mark with one half unlike the other, a mole that is scalloped or has poorly defined edges, a mole with a diameter larger than 6 mm, or a mole with colour variations or inconsistency, see a doctor or dermatologist immediately. Regular self-examination can save your life.

Information supplied by Clicks

Read more:
Visit Health24's Cancer Centre


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules