There are two different types of skin cancer:
Non-melanoma skin cancer and Melanoma skin cancer.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland and the number of cases is rising.
- The main risk factor for developing non-melanoma skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from sun exposure, and sun beds etc.
- People who have used a sunbed, even just once, have a 20% increased risk of melanoma!
- Regular sun holidays, working outdoors, outdoor sports or severe sunburn or blistering as a child or teenager may increase your risk.
- You are more at risk if you have light-coloured skin that freckles or burns easily, with fair or red hair, and blue, green or grey eyes.
- Having a large number of moles or moles that are unusual can increase your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
- Men are more likely than women to get non-melanoma skin cancer. It is believed that men are more exposed to UV rays from working outdoors and playing sport, and from not using sunscreen or wearing protective clothing.
- Non-melanoma skin cancer affects 1 in 6 men and 1 in 9 women over their lifetime.
- Skin cancer can sometimes develop if you are taking drugs over a long period that lower your immunity (immunosuppressants). For example, drugs needed after an organ transplant.
Certain skin changes that are not malignant still carry a risk of developing into cancer later. These are called precancerous conditions. One of the most common precancerous conditions is actinic (solar) keratosis.
- Rough scaly spots or patches on the skin.
- They can be pink-red or flesh coloured.
- They can appear on the face, ears, and back of hands and arms of middle-aged or older people with fair skin.
- Some people call them sunspots.
Monitoring changes in your skin is very important for early detection and prevention of skin cancers.
Any of the following should be shown to your GP!!!!
- Any new spots, freckles/moles
- Any spot/freckle/mole that doesn’t look like others on your body
- Any sore that doesn’t heal
- Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole
- Spread of colour from the border of a spot/freckle/mole into surrounding skin
- Itching, pain, or tenderness in a mole/freckle/spot
- Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump
Prevention is better than cure, so protecting your skin from harmful UV light is the best way of preventing the development of skin cancer.
We all love to feel the sun our skin and it is great to see so many making using of the fantastic Waterford Greenway on our doorstep.
With summer approaching and better weather on the horizon (we hope!), we thought now would be a good time to give you some advice about sun protection and minding our skin during the summer months.
Firstly let’s talk babies and children:
Babies and children are extra sensitive to the sun, so protecting their skin is especially important. Kids love to play outside in the summer months and can really benefit from the fresh air and exercise. Not only that but sunlight helps their skin to produce vitamin D. It is however important not to take risks in the sun. With good sun habits, including proper clothing and sunscreen, children can still enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities without risking their health.
Because infants’ skin is so sensitive, it’s better in the first six months to shield them from the sun altogether.
- Avoid direct sun exposure and seek the shade during the sun’s hours of greatest intensity (10 AM to 4 PM).
- Stick to the shady side of the street on walks, and use the sun shield on your stroller.
- Dress your baby in a brimmed hat and lightweight clothing that fully covers the arms and legs.
- Sunglasses for your kids that filter out UV are also extremely important, since the melanin in babies’ eyes is still forming.
- Buy a UV shield, which you can hang over any window that allows sunlight to reach the child’s car seat.
Once your baby reaches 6 months of age, it’s time to introduce sunscreens.
- You should look for a sunscreen that is water-resistant with a high sun protection factor and UVA protection (see more on UVA below).
- The active ingredients; zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are good choices, because these physical filters don’t rely on absorption of chemicals and are less likely to cause a skin reaction.
You may want to test sunscreen on the inside of your baby/toddler’s wrist. If the child has a little irritation, try another sunscreen.
- Cover your child with a hat and protective clothing.
- Use sunscreen on all exposed areas, such as the back of the hands, face, ears and neck.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out, and reapply it every two hours or more frequently if your child is in the pool or if he or she is sweating.
The Sun Smart Code:
This is a useful way of remembering how to look after yourself and your family.
- Seek some shade (especially in the middle of the day)
- Slip on some clothes (rash vests are great for the beach)
- Slap on a hat (wide brimmed hats are best- baseball hats just don’t cut it!)
- Wear sunglasses (make sure they provide protection against UV rays!)
- Use sunscreen (apply liberally and often- see more below!)
The Irish Cancer society recommends in Ireland to wear sunscreen from April to September to reduce your risk of skin cancer. But remember, using sunscreen alone will not give enough protection against UV rays. It is important to use shade, clothes and sunglasses too. This will give you the best possible protection.
A little bit about Sunscreens:
- Use a ‘broad-spectrum’ sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- SPF 30 minimum should be used for adults. SPF 50 for children. UVA protection is also essential.
- Apply to dry skin 20-30 minutes before going outside.
- Be extra careful of those areas that do not get much sun, they burn more easily.
- For the average adult you will need 35mls of sunscreen to cover the whole body. The Irish Cancer Society recommends using a measure of half a teaspoon of sunscreen to cover each of the following – each arm, the face, the neck and the ears. Use a measure of one teaspoon for each of the following – each leg, the front of the body and the back of the body.
- Reapply every two hours.
- Check the products use-by date and store it below 30°C.
- Choose a water-resistant type if sweating or you are involved in water sports.
UVA and UVB what’s the difference?
- UVA rays are associated with skin ageing as well as skin cancer. They can penetrate window glass and penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays.
- UVB rays are most responsible for sun burn and are strongly linked to melanoma skin cancer.
– It is important to protect your skin against both types of UV radiation.
– A sun cream with a high SPF and European Standard UVA protection is strongly recommended.
- UVA protection which meets the minimum European Standard is denoted as follows;
Ensure this logo is on any suncream that you use.
- SPF stands for ‘Sun Burn Protection Factor’ and it shows the level of protection against UVB rays.
– SPF’s are rated on a scale from 2 to 50+ based on the level of protection they offer. The higher the SPF the greater the protection.