Skin cancer is at an all-time high: This is what you need to know

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Skin cancer has become so common in South Africa, that dermatologists are raising the alarm, claiming that we might have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world and that it could have reached epidemic proportions.

This quick Q&A shares the basics about Melanoma and what you can do to protect your skin:

  • What is Melanoma?

Melanoma presents as either a single lesion (abnormal mark or growth) or as multiple lesions – and can occur on any part of the body. These lesions are potentially life-threatening malignant tumours that develop in the cells that produce the pigment melanin, which gives skin its colour.

  • Who is at risk of Melanoma?

Fair-skinned people have lower levels of melanin in their skin, making them more vulnerable to damage caused by the sun. BUT people with darker skins are also at risk and should not be careless about protecting themselves from the sun and going for regular baseline screenings. 

Man on the beach in the sun. Source: Unsplash
  • What is baseline screening?

Using a hand-held device called a dermatoscope, this routine check helps to determine whether you have any early warning signs of melanoma.  Dr Jeremy D.  O’Kennedy, a dermatologist at Morningside Mediclinic in Sandton, says everyone over the age of 18 should visit a dermatologist to have this done, as the earliest signs of melanoma are not necessarily visible to the naked eye and early detection is key to successful treatment. 

  • What prevention steps can you take? 

Naturally, prevention is better than cure. These three prevention tips are the first steps to take to protect your skin from the sun:

  1. Use protective sunscreen every single day, especially on exposed areas of the body, even if you don’t think you are going to be in the sun. 
  2. Stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10am and 2pm.  
  3. Sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours or immediately after swimming, especially to the face, neck, hands, and ears. 
  • What is the treatment for melanoma? 

Immunotherapy drugs are a promising option, as they are used to help the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells, which helps to prevent them from evading the body’s natural defences. 

For further information about melanoma, click here

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