Skin cancers are an important public health problem all over the world and South Africa is no exception. This can usually be avoided with adequate sun protection and morbidity can be minimized if the skin cancer is diagnosed in time.
Risk Factors Include:
- a fair skin
- presence of moles
- family history of skin cancer
- natural light coloured hair
- blue, green or hazel eyes
- a tendency to burn rather than suntan
- history of severe sunburn under the age of 20
- outdoor work and excessive exposure to the sun
Children should be encouraged, from an early age, to protect themselves from the sun.
Sunscreens are graded with a sun protection factor (SPF).
A broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB by providing a chemical barrier that absorbs or reflects UV radiation before it can damage the skin.
The perfect application thickness is 2mg per square centimeter of skin surface. In practice, an average-sized adult requires at least about the amount of sunblock it takes to fill a shot glass. It should be applied 30 minutes before you go outside, and re-applied every 2 hours and more often if swimming or sweating.
People should not depend totally on sunscreens but should limit their sun-exposure. While sunscreens protect against sunburn, they don't necessarily prevent the occurrence of skin cancer.
It is unwise to use sunscreens to spend more time in the sun. Sunscreens should accompany general sunprotection.
The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) provides recommendations for ensuring safe sun exposure. The following are steps that provide a practical approach to protecting yourself from the effects of the sun.
- Avoid the sun between 10:00 and 15:00.
- Wear UV protective clothing and loose fitting, thickly wove materials
- Wear a hat with a wide brim that covers the face, neck and ears
- Wear sunglasses that block UV rays
- Avoid tanning beds
- Check your skin regularly
- Broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF20 or higher
SPF values only indicate a sunscreen's UVB protection. All sunscreens are tested to measure the amount of UV radiation exposure it takes to cause sunburn when using a sunscreen compared to how much UV exposure it takes to cause a sunburn when not using a sunscreen.
There is a misconception that people who normally get sunburned in one hour, an SPF 20 allows them to stay in the sun for 20 times longer without getting sunburn. SPF is not directly related to time of sun exposure but to amount of sun exposure.
- Wear sunscreen under your make-up
Some moisturisers contain sunscreen, but they usually offer only low protection. It is better to choose a sunscreen with an appropriate protection.
- Should people with dark skin types use sunblock
Sunscreen help keep the complexion as light as possible and protect against premature skin ageing.
- Important facts
- Sunscreen can change in extreme heat
- Risk of burning is greater at high altitudes
- Shirt material only has a maximum SPF 6
- Apply sunscreens 30 minutes before going outside on dry skin
- Reapply after swimming, if you perspire, or every 2 hours
- Some individuals may become allergic to ingredients in sunblocks
- Find a sunscreen you do like and USE IT
- To completely cover the average adult body, apply two layers
Harmful effects of the sun
- Form aggressive free radicals and oxygen species that cause cell damage and change DNA of skin cells
- Premature skin ageing
- Penetrate deep skin
- Increase breakdown of elastin and collagen
- Loses moisture
- Sun spots and wrinkles
- Increased risk for skin cancer
- Skin pigmentation
- Filters protect against UVA and UVB
- Some protect against Infrared and visible light
- Antioxidants neutralise damaging free radicals activity
- Repair cellular DNA damage
- Stimulates collagen
- Pleasant cosmetic formulation
- Powerful anti-ageing tool