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Cansa highlights importance of sun protection

Melanoma Awareness Month in May focuses on cancer risk reduction and early detection, applicable to most cancer types.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) emphasises the significance of sun protection as May marks Melanoma Awareness Month.

Despite the onset of winter, Cansa reminds South Africans to stay sun-smart year-round, regardless of the weather.

Dr Donny Fick, a general medical practitioner, underscored the risks of skin cancer during this year’s Two Oceans half marathon in April.

“South Africa could become the skin cancer capital of the world,” he stated, using the event to raise awareness among the high number of running participants.

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Fick noted while runners often focus on shoes and nutrition, they neglect sun protection.

“Not enough runners use sunscreen, and very few wear hats,” Fick said.

His participation aimed to educate runners and the broader population about the dangers of sun exposure.

Statistics indicate South Africans are at high risk for skin cancer, with melanoma being one of the top five cancers among both men and women (National Cancer Registry, 2022).

Melanoma Awareness Month in May focuses on cancer risk reduction and early detection, applicable to most cancer types.

This includes adjusting lifestyle choices to lower cancer risk and monitoring warning signs that require medical attention.

Melanomas develop in melanocytes, the cells producing skin pigment, and can appear anywhere on the body, even in areas not typically exposed to the sun.

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Lorraine Govender, Cansa’s national manager of health programmes, advocates for regular skin checks.

“We advocate to check your spots; it is a highly preventable cancer, easily detectable on your skin,“ she said.

Cansa advises outdoor workers in industries such as agriculture and construction to use adequate sun protection, including sunscreens, clothing, and hats bearing the Cansa seal of recognition.

Govender also highlighted the need for sun protection while driving, as certain UV rays penetrate windows, and on overcast days, UV rays can penetrate clouds.

Fick stressed the importance of using sunscreen from a young age, noting, “Protecting yourself from the sun slows down the ageing process.”

He and Govender agree that sunscreen should be a mandatory part of daily routines, recommending broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 20 or higher based on skin type.

Fick pointed out men are particularly prone to neglecting sunscreen.

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“Just do it,” he urged.

“You will thank me later.”

In South Africa, melanoma risk is rising among people under 40, especially women.

Signs and symptoms of melanoma:

To help identify unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers, remember the ABCDEs:
Asymmetry: Halves do not match.

Border irregularities: Edges are scalloped or notched.

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Colour variations: Different shades or unconventional colours appear.

Diameter: Moles wider than a pencil eraser.

Evolving characteristics: Changes in size, shape, colour, elevation, or new symptoms like bleeding or itching.

Cancerous moles vary in appearance, with some showing all these changes and others only one or two.

The first sign of melanoma is often a new spot or an existing mole or freckle that changes in appearance, grows, has irregular edges, or changes in colour and texture.

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