What does a perfect and healthy skin mean to you? All over the world, cosmetic companies are producing skin products promising to make you younger, clear acne, purify your skin, keep your skin moisturized and protect you from the sun. Some people especially Europeans and North Americans engage in skin tanning because it’s their symbol of what a perfect skin should be. It’s no new news of the effect of the UV radiation of the sun on our skin so in this article, I’ll discuss how to protect yourself from skin cancer.
A few years ago, before people came out into the sun, they wore hats to shield them from the sun especially if they were going to the beach to have a good time. People cherished the color of their pale skin but recently things are beginning to change. A tanned body is now been considered fashionable by many as people now spend hours sunbathing.
It’s important to know that not everyone who goes out into the sun has the intention of tanning. Many people just intentionally enjoy the comfort of the hot weather outside rather than the tanning effects brought by the sun. Why does your skin need protection from the sun?
Causes of Skin Cancer
Our skin is the largest organ of the body and it is usually the first line defense against cold, heat toxins, chemicals and trauma. It contains several receptors that respond to pain, touch and temperature. It’s a very important organ of the body due to its diverse function. An excessive exposure of the skin to the sun can prove detrimental. Why’s the sun such a great threat to our skin?
The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and when we expose our skin to these radiations, it causes an irreversible damage to the skin resulting in premature aging.
Ultraviolet radiation works by damaging your DNA which leads to immunosuppression and activates series of chemicals in the body that stimulate the excessive replication of cells which eventually leads to cancer.
Effects of UV Exposure and Skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and comprises almost 50% of all new cancer cases each year. Malignant melanoma alone causes thousands of death in the US. There are several presentations of early signs of skin cancers so you should always watch out for these signs.
These signs are mostly seen on sun exposed sites e.g. back of the hands, face, scalp, and ears of bald men, lower leg in women. So it is better to look out for skin cancer early signs when they are still in their precancerous stage as this would ensure fast and immediate therapy to prevent it from progressing to cancerous lesions.
Although there are several risks that may cause cancer such as living in very high altitudes, the conditions of the ozone layer. The main cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to the sun. People often go on vacations at the beach or engage in numerous outdoor recreational activities. More so, over the years there have been great changes in the clothes we wear. Most clothes leave several areas of our skin exposed to direct sunlight. These two factors above have increased the incidence of skin cancer.
More than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer were treated in over 3.3 million people in the U.S. in 2012, the most recent year new statistics were available.1
More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.2
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.3
Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.4
The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for nonmelanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.5
Benefits of sun exposure
Sun exposure is not always bad as there are some benefits of sun exposure. Do not avoid the sun completely. Below are few benefits of getting some exposure to the sun.
• Increases your sense of well being
• Provides the opportunity for physical activity to improve fitness
• Allow synthesis of vitamin D
Types of skin cancers
Three most common types of skin cancer are:
• Basal cell carcinoma
• Squamous cell carcinoma
• Malignant melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma:
They are the most common skin cancer. It generally affects fair skinned adults who have had a lot of sun exposure or repeated episodes of sunburn. It usually arises on normal looking skin and can cause destructive changes in surrounding tissues. Cancer lesions can be seen on the face, upper trunk and shoulders.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Is the second most common skin cancer. Its usual presentation is a slowly growing scaly or crusted papule. They can also present as non-healing ulcers.
How do you know if you have skin cancer?
A spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin. Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole. Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain. Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump.
Malignant melanoma is caused by sun exposure, particularly during childhood. Usually seen in fair-skinned individuals. Blistering sunburn especially when young (age under 10). There are usually large numbers of nevus >100 and this form of cancer is seen in immunosuppressed individuals. It is common in the back of men and the leg of women. It can occur in the lips, genitals, under the nail, eye, brain, ear, rectum, and mouth.
This type of skin cancer is the most deadly if it’s is not treated early; it can invade the inner layer of the skin, the dermis, where blood vessels and the lymph are located. From there it can quickly metastasize
Risk factors for skin cancer
• fair skinned individuals
• Children and babies
• Outdoor workers
• People with personal and family history of skin cancer
• Presence of >100 moles and freckles
• Those who overexpose skin by sunbathing
• Use of sunbeds
Treatment of Skin Cancer
Treatment of skin cancer depends on the type of tumor, the location of tumor and size of tumor. There are several forms of treatment which includes surgical excision, scraping, burning with an electric needle, cryosurgery (freezing) and radiotherapy. The main aim of treatment is to remove the cancer cells, basal cell carcinoma doesn’t kill but can be locally destructive. A tissue reconstruction is often required. All skin cancers could be cured if they were discovered and brought to a doctor’s attention before they had a chance to spread.” Thus, early detection is vital.
Skin cancer prevention
Prevention is better than cure so it’s up to you to make the little changes you can to prevent skin cancer. You should not be discouraged to engage in outdoor activities as long as you use sensible skin protection from the sun.
• avoid sunburn especially kids
• If you need to be out in the sun due to work, protect your skin as much as possible
• Spend more time in shades between 11.00 and 15.00
• Wear a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and trousers
• Choose close weave fabrics
• Sunscreen should be used when going out to the sun
• Choose the sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection
• Use water-resistant products applied at least 2 hours on the beach
• Sun protective pills( newly developed agent)
• Examine your skin from head to toe at least once every three months
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