Sun Kissed? Some Risk.
Summer is the season for sun-kissed skin, but if you aren’t careful, your bronzy glow can cause your health to take a turn for the worst. Over 80 000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada every year, with the vast majority of cases caused by sun exposure.
Skin cancer is usually preventable by limiting exposure to UVA/UVB radiation, most commonly the sun and tanning beds. Skin cancer is often treatable if detected early enough, however, not all forms of skin cancer are equal:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): accounts for 90% of skin cancer. Manifests in the base of the outermost skin layer. Caused by sun exposure; most easily treated form of skin cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): second most common form of skin cancer. Caused by cumulative exposure to UVA/UVB radiation, meaning you don't even need to get a sunburn to increase your risk! SCC can be caused by frequent, low dose sun exposure. Manifests in the outermost layer of skin and can spread to lower layers or even enter bloodstream and spread throughout the body if left untreated. If discovered early, very treatable.
Actinic Kerastosis (AK): some believe this to be an early form of SCC. Caused by exposure to UVA/UVB radiation.
Malignant Melanoma (MM): form of skin cancer responsible for the most deaths. Can be treated if discovered early. Often takes the form of a pre-existing mole that changes in appearance, or the development of a new mole. Also the most common cancer in Canadian women between the ages of 15 and 29.
Evidently, a summer glow is not worth the risk. Skin cancer can occur in people of all races and skin tones, so it’s important for everyone to take sun safety seriously. Many people tan even with very little sun exposure. Tanning is your skin’s way to protect itself from cancer. If you have a tan, your skin is already damaged; tanning forces your skin to work hard, and a sunburn occurs when it cannot keep up.
Risk of skin cancer doubles from even one sunburn during childhood. When cells are still developing, they are more susceptible to damage causing mutated or irregular cell function, sometimes cancer.
For those who freckle or beauty mark easily, malignant melanoma can be difficult to detect. It is very important to visually inspect your skin on a regular basis; this way abnormalities can be detected during early stages when treatment is most effective. You can recognize the symptoms of malignant melanoma by remembering your ABC’s:
Asymmetry: Benign beauty marks are symmetrical, so if your mole appears lopsided, keep a close eye on it.
Boarder: The boarders of malignant moles tend to be jagged or uneven, as opposed to even, regular boarders present on benign spots.
Colour: Benign moles are usually a uniform shade. Malignant moles can appear varying shades of brown, black, red, white, or even blue.
Diameter: Malignant moles usually have larger moles than benign beauty marks, although they may be smaller during their earliest stages. Take note if your polka dots are larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser, as well as if the elevation of the spot changes.
Evolving: Benign beauty marks are usually stagnant. If the characteristics of your spot change in any way, including change in size, shape, or colour, or suddenly begin to bleed, peel, flake, itch, crust, or secrete fluid, consider visiting a dermatologist.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Avoid tanning beds at all costs; instead, opt for a spray tan, an at-home bronzing lotion, or embracing your natural skin!
Next, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before exposing your skin to the sun, reapplying after every two hours of sun exposure. Non-greasy, non-comedogenic formulas are becoming more common and can even be applied underneath makeup; alternatively, consider a daytime moisturizer or even makeup that has SPF.
Don't forget lip balm with SPF, wrap-around sunglasses, and a wide brimmed hat! Skin cancer can manifest on the lips and the surface of eyes, and often goes undetected when it develops on the scalp.
Skin cancer is largely preventable, often detectable, and very treatable if discovered during an early stage. Be proactive and enjoy a lifetime full of beautiful summers! Safe habits and healthy skin are more beautiful than any shade of bronze.
[All facts/ statistics courtesy of canadianskincancerfoundation.com
ABCDE’s courtesy of skincancer.org]