5 things you need to know about skin cancer

Protect yourself and your family from the ravages of the sun and skin cancer with this vital info.

28 November 2014
by Wendy Maritz

1. It’s the most common cancer in SA

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in this country, with around 20 000 cases reported every year. In fact, South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world (after Australia). While exposure to certain toxins, a weakened immune system, the prevalence of moles on the skin and genetics play a role in the development of this cancer, overexposure to the sun increases your risk dramatically.

2. There’s no such thing as a ‘safe tan’

Think about it this way: your skin is one of your body’s largest organs (in surface area and weight) and has protective, regulatory and sensory functions. Its upper layer or dermis consists of three layers: squamous cells, basal cells and melanocytes. Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. More melanin is produced when you’re in the sun to help protect the deeper layers of the skin. What some might consider a glowing tan, is, in fact, your body’s injury response to the sun’s radiation.

3. Know the difference between UVA and UVB rays

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth, and there are two kinds that damage our skin. The broader UVB rays result in reddening of the skin, burns and skin spots, while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, causing structural damage to DNA, and increase the risk of skin cancer in the form of malignant melanoma.

4. Check yourself monthly for cancer signs

CANSA recommends monthly self-checks to spot any signs of skin abnormalities. Common moles are round and symmetrical, are smooth with even borders, and are a single shade of black or brown. Look out for a mole or mark that is asymmetrical (one half looks different), has irregular borders, that is, poorly defined or scalloped, has changed colour (to tan, black, brown red, white or blue), is larger than 6mm in diameter, or is growing bigger and becoming more prominent. If any of these signs appear, don’t hesitate before having them checked out by a dermatologist.

5. Follow these golden rules

Covering up and avoiding the sun between 10am and 3pm are still the golden rules as far as sun safety goes. This applies to adults as well as children. Also, babies younger than one year should never be exposed to direct sunlight. Look out for CANSA-approved sunscreens, and protective clothing and bathing costumes.

For more information visit cansa.org.za. 

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for sunscreen

Protecting your skin from the harsh elements is essential. We have a variety of sunscreen ranges you can trust to protect your skin.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: Cancer Super Section