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Be sun smart this summer to prevent skin cancer

With the holidays arriving, members of CANSA have appealed to South Africans to be safe in the sun this summer. PHOTO: Supplied

With the holidays arriving, members of CANSA have appealed to South Africans to be safe in the sun this summer. PHOTO: Supplied

With the holidays arriving, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) appealed to South Africans on 4 December to be safe in the sun this December, January and February as they enjoy summer. Elize Joubert, CANSA Acting CEO, says skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in South Africa and is the result of skin cell damage which begins in the lower part of the epidermis (the top layer of the skin).

“We can develop skin cancer when we ignore our bodies’ signals to avoid sunlight. It’s important to know how to reduce your risk of skin cancer, especially during summer when the sun’s rays are the harshest, so use an approved CANSA SunSmart Choice approved sun screen and protective clothing,” she says.

Joubert says CANSA is putting the focus on spot-the-spot screening and it is essential to check skin carefully every month by doing a mole check, as well as check for any changes in the moles. She says moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless, although anyone who has more than 100 moles or atypical moles is at a greater risk for melanoma.

“Ask a family member or friend to examine your back and top of head, while you can check the rest of your body. If you notice any of warning signs, see a doctor or dermatologist immediately,” says Joubert.

According to her, CANSA also warns against tanning. Joubert says in recent years there has been a considerable increase in the use of sunless and self-tanning products such as sprays, mousses, gels, pills, nasal sprays and injections with some having serious side effects and possibly inducing malignant melanoma.

“Although some self-tanning products contain sunscreen, it offers minimal ultraviolet radiation protection and does not provide protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. CANSA strongly discourages individuals to use any form of tanning product,” she says.