Skin cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa with about 20 000 reported cases every year. South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia.
The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented by protecting yourself against the harsh rays of the sun. The three most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and malignant melanoma.
SPF refers to the extra protection offered by applying sunscreen lotion to the skin. If your skin usually starts to change colour within five minutes, a sunscreen with a SPF of 20 will protect your skin for 20 times as long (5 times 20, which equals 100 minutes). It is important to remember, there is no such thing as a complete sun-blocker, as all sunscreen lotions need to be reapplied at regular intervals.
UV rays are part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth. The broader UVB rays cause tanning of the skin and are responsible for redness, painful burning, skin spots and eventually skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can damage the structure of the cells, causing aging and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Check your skin carefully every month including your back and the top of your head. If you notice any of the warning signs, see a doctor or dermatologist immediately.
A-symmetry - a mole or mark with one half unlike the other - common moles are round and symmetrical
B-order irregularities - scalloped or poorly defined edges - common moles have smooth and even borders
C-olour variations and inconsistency – tan, brown, black, red, white and blue - common moles are usually a single shade of brown or black
D-iameter - larger than 6 mm