19 July 2017

3 ways to prevent skin cancer during winter

The sun is not as strong in winter, but this doesn't decrease your chances of developing skin cancer.

We all love a little sunshine in our life, especially in winter when the sun doesn’t feel as harsh. But it is true that you can get sunburned even in winter if your skin is not protected.

According to the World Health Organization, there are between two to three million reported cases of non-melanoma skin cancers and around 132 000 melanoma skin cancers globally each year.

Prevalence of skin cancer

South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).

There are at least 200 000 cases of South Africans with non-melanoma skin cancers and around 1 500 that are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancers every year.

“Skin cancer is preventable by limiting sun to the skin,” says Dr David Eedes, Clinical Oncology Advisor for the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON).

He adds that there are other ways of limiting one's exposure to harmful rays, including:

1. Not using sunbeds – Sunbeds have been classified as carcinogenic (cancer-causing). According to CANSA, sunbeds emit concentrated UVA and UVB radiation to unprotected skin, causing damage to the DNA of skin cells.

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2. Using sunblock – When outdoors, sunblock filters out the UV rays that put you at risk of developing skin cancer.

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3. Wearing protective clothing – This prevents your entire body from exposure to direct sunlight, decreasing your risk of developing skin cancer. However, bear in mind that sunblock should be applied to the hands and face, and any other parts of the body which remain exposed on a daily basis.

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“You also need to ensure that you have skin lesions checked by a practitioner who has the requisite training,” said Dr Eedes.

Health24 previously reported that the annual cost of treating skin cancer in South Africa was estimated at R92.4 million in 2015, and with the prevalence of skin cancer increasing each year, so will the cost of treatment.

It is recommended that you see a dermatologist once a year for a check-up if you have unusual moles and lesions. You should also regularly check yourself in the mirror for possible signs of skin cancer.

Read more:

What is skin cancer?

Types of skin cancer

Symptoms of skin cancer


Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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