A beautiful tan - healthy - or is it?

Did you know??

  • Protectingyour skin during the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of some types of skin cancers up to 78%.
  • Severe sunburn during the first 15 years of life can double the risk of skin cancer.
  • More women are at risk than men.

Is a beautiful tan a sign of good health?

No, a tan is not a sign of health, it is a sign that the skin has been damaged by ultraviolet radiation. When cells are damaged by the sun, melanin rushes to the surface to provide protection against the next onslaught. As you slowly build a "protective" tan your skin is darkening in response to damage on top of damage!

Why is the sun dangerous?

  • Ultra violet rays (UV) are part of the light spectrum reaching the earth. Damage to the planet's ozone layer has increased the amount of harmful radiation that reaches your skin. UV radiation is made up of UVA and UVBrays.
  • UVA ages the skin as the rays penetrate the skin deeply and UVB burns the skin - Both can cause cancer!
  • UV radiation is not felt as heat on the skin, so even on a cool and cloudy day it may be just as high and just as damaging as on a clear and sunny day.
  • UV is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky, 11:00 to 14:00.
  • UV exposure is greater in the mountains than in valleys.
  • UV exposure is greatest in the summer.
  • The longer you are out in the sun, the more UV rays you receive.

Types of skin cancer

There are three types of skin cancer. The most common are:

  • Basal cell and
  • Squamous cell carcinomas.

They are easily treated and rarely fatal. The third and most dangerous is

  • malignant Melanoma.

Warning signs of skin cancer

Several basic changes in the skin and existing moles that could be early stages of skin cancer:

  • Colour, especially multiple shades of brown, red and black or when colour spreads into the surrounding skin
  • Size, as ordinary moles are usually less than 6mm in diameter
  • Changes in pigmented areas: becoming raised, changes to the surface or sensation eg. itchiness, tenderness or pain, becoming harder or softer
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Patches that crust over, ooze or bleed persistently

Although melanomas can affect most parts of the body, the most common for woman is on the legs and in men on the trunk, particularly the back.

Who is most at risk?

  • Outdoor sport players, especially during the hottest part of the day (11 h00-15h00)
  • Fair skinned, fair hair (especially red hair), blue eyes and freckles
  • Persons who tan with difficulty and burn in the sun
  • A person with many moles or skin spots
  • If you have had skin cancer before or it runs in the family (2 or more members).

How to be safe in the sun!

  • Take note of the daily UV radiation warnings and plan sporting activities accordingly.
  • Limit your total time in the sun.
  • Cover up, wear a thick hat with wide rim and clothing that is densely woven.
  • Use a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen, with SPF of 15 and more.
  • Use a water resistant product if you perspire a lot, apply sun screen on all exposed areas, especially the back of the neck, tips of ears, lips, arms and hands.
  • Reapply the sunscreen frequently after swimming, towelling,
  • UV radiation is reflected off sand, light coloured concrete, walls, grass and water thus burning may also occur in the shade.
  • Protection is also needed on windy and overcast days,9 Sun beds that mainly deliver UVA radiation, may cause melanomas.
  • Sun protection is of utmost importance for babies, toddlers and teenagers .
  • NB! Babies under six months are too young for sunscreen and should just be kept out of the sun!
  • Wear protective sunglasses as UV rays can cause cataracts and damage to the retina.
  • If you really cannot face being pale on holiday, there is a booming industry in excellent fake tanning products.

If detected early, skin cancer has a 99% cure rate.

Use the notes below to assist you in doing regular skin cancer self-examinations.

  1. Examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and earsfront and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
  2. Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
  3. Check your hands carefully: palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both front and back of your forearms.
  4. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Don't forget the underarms.
  5. Next focus on the neck, chest, and torso. Women should lift breasts to view the underside.
  6. With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your upper arms you could not view in step 4.
  7. Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.
  8. Sit down; prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Examine soles of feet and heels.