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Skin cancer: What we need to know
1:55pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in Lifestyle
According to Cancer Research UK around 2,200 people died from malignant melanoma, a less common but more serious type of skin cancer, in the UK in the year 2011.
The more common but less deadly non-melanoma skin cancer took around 590 lives in the same year. While there have been improvements to medical research regarding this type of cancer in the last few decades, it continues to inflict people mainly due to the latter’s complacency. As stated by Cancer Research UK head of clinical programmes, Dr. Richard Sullivan, in an interview with Evening Standard, "There are still some people who are completely ignorant about the risks and others who just think it won't happen to them.”
Skin cancer can be easily prevented if only people would pay attention and realize that it can happen to them if they do not take any precautions. And you don’t necessarily have to be on a vacation abroad to catch it. The UK is not exactly skin cancer-proof.
● The main cause of skin cancer is excessive sun exposure.
○ In the UK alone, around 11,100 cases of malignant melanoma were reportedly linked to excessive sun exposure and the use of sun beds.
○ Encouraged by increased cheap holiday trips abroad and increasing affluence in the last decade.
● Sun beds account for an estimated 100 deaths in the UK every year due to melanoma.
● People at high risk are those: (one of any) ○ with light eyes or hair ○ who sunburn easily ○ who do not tan ○ who have a lot of moles or freckles ○ who have been diagnosed with skin cancer before ○ who have a history of sunburn ○ who have a family history of skin cancer.
There are several simple ways on how you can protect yourself and your family from skin cancer:
● Seek shade especially between 11am and 3pm. The sun rays are strong during the summer so be sure to stay under sun shades like canopies, awnings, etc.
○ Apply 2 teaspoonful of sunscreen on head, neck, and arms. 2 tablespoonfuls when in bathing suit.
○ Apply it 20-30 minutes before going out to take effect. Apply every 2 hours as it washes off from sweating, swimming, etc.
● Avoid sun beds as they actually give off 10-15 times the amount of UVA than a midday sun.
● Wear protective clothing that are weaved tightly (T-shirt material) so UV rays won’t pass through easily.
○ Some clothing stretch when wet so be sure to immediately change to a dry one.
○ Best to wear wraparound sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats for ultimate eyes and head protection. Have your children wear protective clothing even if they don’t get sunburnt easily to minimize risks.
○ It’s important for children aged 6 months and below to be immensely protected especially during midday.
● Steer clear from reflective materials or substances such as water and snow as they can burn your skin, too.
While the sun gives off Vitamin D, a nutrient good for your bones, you should not expose yourself to it too much to the point of getting sunburned. Sunburn is an effect of the damage done to your skin caused by overexposure. And neither should you put your health at risk for the sake of a good tan. In addition, just because it’s cloudy outside doesn’t mean you can’t get skin cancer. Thin clouds are still penetrable by UV rays so best be on your toes every time.
The chest or back is the most common area for men to develop a malignant melanoma. For women, it is the legs. Be mindful of those areas and protect them accordingly.
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS
According to Cancer Research UK, incidences of malignant melanoma in Great Britain have quadrupled over the last thirty years. Compared to Australia - country with the most skin cancer cases along with New Zealand - UK is losing more lives to skin cancer every year with 8,100 British deaths in the last five years compared to 4,900 in Australia. The latter’s success is due in part to their various campaigns to educate their people.
Time and time again we hear the phrase, “prevention is better than cure” simply because it’s the truth. The more you think the odds of it happening to you are one in a million, the more you become careless and actually increase your risk.
It’s about time to strip the Brits off of complacency and expose them to this alarming truth.
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