SKIN TALK: IT’S SUMMER TIME, LOTS OF SUN AND LOTS OF FUN
I have heard several times that dark skinned people feel they are protected from skin cancer and as such would not bother to use sun cream or hats or protect their skin in whatever form from the sun. Whilst it is true that the melanin present in abundance in the dark skinned offers some protection against some forms of skin cancer, it is also known is that the most severe form of skin cancer that is likely to spread and therefore more difficult to treat and in essence cure is commoner in the dark skinned population. Therefore I found it imperative to discuss this topic both for the benefit of both fair and dark skinned people and to help dispel the belief that dark skinned individuals do not need extra sun protection for their skin.
I hope you find my discussion on skin cancer below useful.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Around 100,000 cases are diagnosed each year. The main cause of all types of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) light which comes from the sun or tanning beds. The main types of skin cancer are Melanoma, Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), Squamous cell carcinoma-SCC)
Anyone can develop skin cancer but you’re particularly at risk if you have fair skin, lots of moles or freckles, red or fair hair, pale coloured eyes, used tanning beds, a family history of skin cancer or had skin cancer before, or take medication which affects your immune system. As against popular belief dark skinned people do get skin cancer and the most aggressive type of skin cancer are commoner in dark skinned people.
Get to know your skin
Getting to know your own skin will help you spot changes early and it’s important to know what’s normal. Moles and Freckles are common and most are harmless. Check your skin once a month and report any changes without delay to your doctor.
Moles are small, coloured spots on the skin. Most people have them and they are usually nothing to worry about unless they change size, shape or colour.
It is normal for:
- Babies to be born with moles.
- New moles to appear: especially in children and teenagers.
- Moles to fade or disappear as you get older.
- Moles to get slightly darker during pregnancy.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer with around six people dying every day. Common places to develop melanomas in men are the back and chest, and in women on the legs and arms, but changes can appear anywhere.
Any changes to moles should be checked by a doctor. The ABCDEguide is an easy way to remember some of the most common things to look for.
Other Types of skin cancer : BCC and SCC
These are some of the most common types of cancer in the world. They may first appear as:
- A new, unexplained skin change which appears suddenly.
- A spot or sore which continues to itch, hurt, scab, crust or bleed for more than four weeks or does not heal within four weeks.
- Ulcerated areas or patches where the skin has broken down and does not heal within four weeks.
There are two main types of this cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). SCC is fast growing while BCC develops slowly. If you notice any of the below changes to your skin you should discuss it with a doctor.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
What to do if you notice changes like these
If you notice any changes in your skin like the above, go to your GP as soon as possible. Lots of GPs are now able to send a photo to a specialist dermatologist, which can make diagnosis (and any subsequent treatment) much quicker.
When should I use sun cream?
Check out the Global Solar UV Index. This is a measure of the UV radiation level at the Earth’s surface and indicates the potential for skin damage. The greater the UV index value the greater the harm to skin. You need to protect your skin when the UV index is 3 or more. If you visit the Met Office’s website, they have a UV forecast on their homepage that you can customise to your location.
What does SPF mean?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) tells us the amount of protection sun creams offer against UVB radiation. It gives an idea of how much longer skin that’s covered with the sun cream takes to redden in response to UV, compared with unprotected skin.
What are UVA and UVB?
Both are types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. UVB is the main cause of sunburn. UVA affects the elastin in the skin leading to wrinkles, leathery skin and brown pigmentation, and skin cancer.
The UVA seal (a logo with ‘UVA’ inside a circle) shows protection against UVA and meets the EU recommendation for sun creams to offer a UVA protection factor equivalent to at least a third of their SPF.
How much sun cream should I apply?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 35ml for the total body – seven teaspoons (or a shot glass full): one for the face/head and neck, one for each arm and leg, and one each for your front and back. The hand on the left shows the average amount of sunscreen we typically apply in a single full-body application. The two hands is the amount we should be applying.
Look after your skin.
Tenovus Cancer Care, Cancer Research UK, Patient.co.uk, www.nhs.uk