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Skin Cancer

WHAT IS SKIN CANCER?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.  It occurs when damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine and tanning beds) triggers mutations or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF SKIN CANCER:

 

  1. KERATINOCYTE CANCERS (basal and squamous cell skin cancers)
  • The most common type
  • Found mainly on sun exposed parts of the body
  • Much less likely to spread to other parts of the body
  • It is still important to find them early, if they are left, they can grow larger and invade nearby tissues and organs causing scarring, deformity or even loss of function.  

2.    MELANOMA

  • Melanomas are cancers that develop from melanocytes, the cells that make brown pigment that gives skin its colour, melanocytes can also form benign (non-cancerous) growth cells, called moles.
  • Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, the trunk (chest and back) is the most common place in men.
  • The legs are the most common place in women.
  • Other common areas are the neck and face.
  • If left untreated, melanoma can spread to the organs.

HOW CAN I PREVENT SKIN CANCER?

BE SUNSMART!!

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10AM and 3PM
  • Avoid getting sunburned
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths
  • Cover up with clothing, wear broad-brimmed hats and use UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Use sunscreen every day, with a SPF of 15 or higher
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and top up when swimming
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month, look for skin changes
  • See your Physician or Dermatologist every year for a professional skin cancer exam (mole mapping) or visit the CANSA clinic.
  • Use sunscreen with The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation
  • Educate and protect children

 

WARNING SIGNS FOR SKIN CANCER         

MYTHS

  • The sun is only dangerous in summer or on a hot day
  • Sunscreen will protect me completely from the harmful effects of the sun's rays
  • One or two cases of sunburn won't result in skin cancer
  • People with darker skins are not at risk for getting skin cancer
  • Sunbeds are a safer alternative to obtain a tan

FACTS

  • South Africa has the 2nd highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia
  • Although some self-tanning products contain sunscreen, they offer minimal ultraviolet radiation protection. 
  • CANSA strongly discourages individuals to use any form of tanning product
  • Topical sunless tanning products that contain Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) prevent the formation of Vitamin D in the skin when exposed to the sun.
  • The product Melanotan 11, an ingredient in some self tanning preparations, has serious side effects and may induce malignant melanoma.

Which sunscreen and SPF should be used?

  • Preferably use SPF 30-50
  • The number in the SPF indicates for how many minutes the sunscreen will provide protection from the sun (example SPF 15, sunscreen needs to be re-applied every 15 minutes, SPF 30, re-apply every 30 minutes and so on)
  • Use sunscreen that bears the CANSA seal of recognition
  • Sunscreens usually have an expiry date of 2 years, but do not use after 1 year once opened
  • Apply sunscreen generously

 

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