During this Skin Cancer Awareness Month, spanning from December 1 to January 31, prioritize sun safety and empower yourself with knowledge about the risks associated with sunlight and its rays.
As per the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), South Africa ranks second globally in skin cancer incidence, following Australia. Additionally, the country has one of the highest rates of melanoma, the most perilous form of skin cancer, on a global scale.
Annually, a minimum of 20,000 South Africans receive diagnoses of non-melanoma skin cancers, which are cancers occurring in the skin but not classified as melanoma. Additionally, around 1,500 individuals are diagnosed with melanoma.
Despite being a highly preventable and treatable disease, skin cancer results from prolonged exposure to sunlight and can affect individuals of any skin color, gender, or age.
Here are some tips to reduce your risk of skin cancer:
- Sunburn can occur within 15 minutes, causing permanent and irreversible damage that increases your risk of skin cancer.
- Avoid sunbeds and sunlamps, as they can elevate your risk of skin cancer.
- Use an effective sunscreen with an SPF of between 20 to 50, applying it generously to all exposed skin.
- Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside, and re-apply regularly (every two hours), especially after towel drying, perspiring, or swimming.
- Wear protective clothing, such as wide-brim hats, loose-fitting shirts, and sunglasses with UV protection of UV400.
- The sun's rays are most dangerous between 10 am and 3 pm, so avoid direct sun exposure during this time. Stay in the shade or under an umbrella whenever possible. Remember, you can get sunburn on a cloudy day, as UV light can still penetrate light cloud cover.
- Carefully check your skin monthly for spots, marks, or moles.
- Be aware of warning signs for skin cancer, including asymmetrical marks, moles that change color, grow larger, or have irregular edges. Seek medical advice immediately if you notice any of these changes, as early detection of skin cancer is vital.
- Get screened at your local CANSA care centre. Practice good and responsible sun care throughout the year to stay sun smart.