The Dark Side Of Sunshine: Keep Your Skin Safe From Cancer
Don’t mistake skin cancer for another tan. Better yet, protect yourself from the sun's wrath. Understand the dangers of sun exposure.
How does it happen?
Cancer develops in the skin cells due to damage or mutation in the DNA of skin cells. These can cause uncontrolled growth of skin cells that eventually become a mass of cells. It has various types, the most common being basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
While the disease is not always life-threatening, it is vital to understand its emerging prevalence and take steps to prevent it.
Skin cancer in India
There has been a noted increase in the disease in recent years. According to the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP), the incidence of skin cancer in India is 0.5-2 per 100,000 people.
Why does it happen
There are no clear-cut reasons, but there are some observations such as people spending more time outdoors without adequate protection. Sunscreen use, for example, has not been as prevalent as it should be.
Clothing choices are also important, as too much skin exposure can be harmful. Many people do not apply enough sunscreen or reapply it frequently, leaving them vulnerable to UV radiation.
What are its risk factors
The primary risk factors include exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, a primary concern in a country with a hot and sunny climate. It damages the DNA in skin cells, leading to mutations that can cause the disease. The more exposed a person is to UV radiation, the greater their risk of developing skin cancer.
What contributes to this is the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects the
Earth from harmful UV radiation has been thinning in recent years due to human activities such as using certain chemicals. As the ozone layer continues to thin, more UV radiation can reach the Earth's surface, increasing the risk of getting the disease.
In addition to these environmental factors, changes in lifestyle and behaviour have also contributed to the higher frequency of skin cancer cases. Tanning beds, for example, have become increasingly popular in recent years. Tanning beds use UV radiation to darken the skin, which directly increases the risk. People using tanning beds may develop skin cancer more than those who do not.
Other risk factors include:
A history of sunburns
A weakened immune system
Here’s how you protect yourself
Sun protection is key to reducing the risk of the disease. This includes wearing protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves, seeking shade when outdoors, and using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It is essential to apply sunscreen liberally and frequently, especially after swimming or sweating.
Regular skin exams can also help detect the disease early. It's crucial for people who have a family history of the disease, a history of sunburns, or many moles or freckles.
A dermatologist can perform a skin exam and check for any abnormal moles or spots that may be cancerous. If detected early, the disease is treatable.
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