Who doesn’t like the sun? The sun is a source of light, warmth and well-being that makes us feel happy. But be careful. Ultraviolet rays are also the main cause of photoaging and skin cancer.
Most people know about the relationship between sunburn and melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. However, they are less aware of the risk of other types of skin cancer; types that can also have great consequences.
Two types of non-melanoma skin cancer
Apart from melanoma, there are mainly two types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
They’re less aggressive than melanoma, but much more common. In general, they appear in people who spend a lot of time in the sun throughout the year without necessarily getting sunburned. It’s extremely common in people who work outdoors, for example in the field or on construction sites. It usually manifests as wounds that won´t heal or as nodules on the skin. It should always be checked by a dermatologist.
The precursor to squamous cell carcinoma is called actinic keratosis. It is a rough, pink spot with white scale. It is usually found on the face, ears, hands and bald scalp of men. They’re easily detected by running a finger over the skin. If you find a rough spot, it should be checked by a dermatologist. If it is not treated in time, it can turn into cancer.
The treatment of actinic keratosis and early-stage skin cancer consists of cryotherapy (freezing) or special creams. However, in most cases of cancer surgery is required, which is usually curative.
Preventing skin cancer
Sunlight affects our skin whether we’re on the beach, in the garden, sitting on a bench or going to the supermarket. Protect yourself at all times.
- Stay in the shade from 12 to 5 pm
- Wear clothing and a hat or cap to reduce exposure of body parts
- Use a sunscreen factor 50 on your face and neck every day of the year. In addition to protecting against cancer, it is the best anti-wrinkle and anti-blemish cream.
- Use sunscreen factor 50 and don’t forget to apply it to your ears, nose and lips. It must be repeated every 2 hours of sun exposure, especially after bathing, excessive sweating or after rubbing with a towel.
- Children under 1 year should not receive direct sunlight.
- Never use sunbeds.
It is important that you check your skin regularly, preferably every two months. You should go to a dermatologist if you see the following:
- ANY change in a mole. A mole should be symmetrical, with uniform edges and colors, and generally less than 6 millimeters in diameter.
- Small growths or nodules on the skin.
- A wound that doesn´t heal.
- Rough spots.
It is advisable to go to the dermatologist for an annual skin check; it is crucial that a melanoma or carcinoma is removed as soon as possible to avoid metastasis.
Enjoy the sun, but don’t overdo it
Our skin is not prepared to withstand all the ultraviolet radiation that we receive. An UV index higher than 3 implies risk, and in the province of Malaga the index is almost never lower than 3 – not even in winter. There’s no need to fear the sun, but enjoy the sun carefully if you want to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Article published in the magazine “Un lugar de Encuentro”, July 2020