Skin cancer, one of the most common types of cancer is usually caused by unsafe exposure to sunlight, and begins in the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis. Depending on the cells it developes from, there are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell cancers – the most common type of skin cancer, as stated by the American Cancer society, which usually developes on areas that have been constantly exposed to sunlight, such as the head and neck. It grows slowly and can recur easily, when not removed completely.
- Squamos cell cancers – representing about 2 out of 10 skin cancers, these usually appear on the face, ears, neck, lips or other sun-exposed areas of the body. The cells tend to grow into deeper layers of skin and can grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body.
- Melanoma – much less comon than the ones above, but it’s the one most likely to spread to other body parts. It can develop anywhere on the skin, even in parts of the body such as eyes ot mouth. Usually, it is caused by UV radiation either from sun-exposure or tanning beds and tends to resemble or develop from moles.
According to World Health Organization, the incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers is constantly increasing, with over 2 million patients for non-melanoma and 132,000 for melanoma cancer diagnosed each year. One of the causes: the depleted ozone levels which cause the atmosphere to lose more and more of its UV radiation filter.
Statistically speaking, melanoma is the cause of 1% of skin cancers, being most common in women ages 20-39, and is responsible for 5,000 deaths, out of 18,000 new patients diagnosed each year in Europe (Melanoma Molecular Map Project – MMMP). Last year, Romania has had over 1,000 cases of melanoma which resulted in 364 deaths, says the Romanian Society of Dermato Oncology.
In Romania, the incidence rate for melanoma is 4,7 for men and 4,4 for women, for every 100,000 people. Although easily treatable, the lack of education amongst Romanians concerning skin cancer prevention has resulted in the lowest survival rate in Europe – 5 years. As the Romanian Society of Aesthetic Medicine and Cosmetic and Surgical Dermatology stated, this rate is due to the late diagnosis of the disease.
Can skin cancer be prevented?
Non-melanoma or melanoma, skin cancers can be easily treated when diagnosed during the early stage, when the tumour has not yet spread. However, doctors say, the best treatment you can get is prevention. As “cliché”as it may sound, the best ways of protecting your skin from developing such tumors is to avoid sun and always use sunscreen with high SPF, even during rainy days.
However, most people don’t pay as much attention to these simple advices. According to the British publication Express, 61% of men are not concerned with applying sun cream when they are exposed to sunlight, versus 54% of the women who claim the same thing.
Here’s what you should do in order to prevent skin cancers of all type:
- Avoid sun exposure especially between 10 AM and 4 PM and stay in the shade, that’s when the sun’s rays are the strongest and can affect us most;
- Avoid UV tanning beds;
- Wear clothing that covers your skin and hats with wide brims to protect your face and head;
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, even when the weather seems cloudy, and apply about 2 tablespoon on every exposed area of the body. There are many types of SPF factor:
- SPF 15, which blocks 93% of UVB rays and is usually recommended for people with darker skin tones, for daily use;
- SPF 30, which blocks 97% of UVB rays, also recommended for daily use, for people with lighter skin;
- SPF 50, which blocks 98% of UVB rays, and you can use it especially for kids.
- Use polarized sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays, especially when you work a lot with computers – long exposure to computers, tablets, TVs or phones will make our eyes more sensitive to sunlight;
- Examine your skin at least once every six months, and check with your doctor if you notice any anomalies.
How do I protect my children from the sun?
Sun safety for kids isn’t that much different. However, their skin absorbs the harmful UV rays a lot easier whenever they are outdoors, so they need to be protected throughrout the entire day.
Protect their face and body with sunscreen with high SPF whenever they go out, cover them up with clothes that can provide protection from the sun, always use sunglasses to protect their eyes, in order to prevent later illnesses.
Also, don’t forget to use a hat, always seek shade from the powerful sun rays and don’t expose them during lunch hours.
How can I get tan during summer, but still protect my skin?
First of all, you should know that any type of tanning will damage your skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. However, using tanning beds is one of the worst ideas, being able to increase the risk for melanoma by 75%, says the Skin Cancer Foundation.
There is no healthy way of getting a tan, after all, but if you do wish to do it, dermatologists often recommend using self-tanning products instead of direct exposure to sunlight.
How will I get my dose of vitamin D, if I can’t stay in the sun?
Vitamin D is, indeed, essential for bone health, but spending time in the sun isn’t safe and can’t guarantee our body actually absorbs the vitamin. There are a lot of other healthy sources of vitamin D, which can help reduce your time in the burning sun.
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, portobello mushrooms or egg yolks are great sources of vitamin D that you can introduce in your diet. Besides, there are plenty Vitamin D supplements can help you get your proper daily dose without dealing with the risk of skin cancer.
How do I know when I should see a doctor, for a proper diagnose?
Every type of skin cancer starts with small changes on your skin – new growths, lesions, moles that aren’t cancerous yet, but can develop to a form of cancer. Scaly patches or persistent roughness of the skin, moles that seem to change their shape or new moles that multiply are usually the most common signs of cancer.
A regular check-up is mandatory at least once every six months, considering that an experienced doctor can spot signs of skin cancer a lot earlier than ourselves. A skin biopsy is the only certain way of identifiying cancer cells. It seems a bit scary, but it’s actually a very simple procedure involving a tissue harvesting and its examination under a microscope.
If by any chance you suspect a possible diagnose, the skin biopsy is the only method of confirming it, so don’t avoid going to your dermatologist as soon as your suspicions start – the earlier you get te diagnose, the easier the disease can be treated.
The price of a skin biopsy can start at 200 lei, but the costs can grow significantly when you seek a second opinion or are in the search of the the right doctor.
To support this procedure and, in general, the oncological needs amongst Romanian patients, MediHelp International, together with Lamp Insurance and The New Europe Surgical Academy (NESA) have brought to Romania a new way of oncological funding – the Nesacard.
How does the Nesacard work?
It’s very simple. For a donation of 33 eur/year to NESA, meant to support their oncological research, you receive a card that, in the case of cancer suspicions, will provide you with 2000 eur in cash that can cover cancer diagnostic services.
In case of skin cancer, you can use it for medical check-ups, skin biopsy, second opinion from specialized doctors anywhere in this world, in a clinic of your choice, in order to receive the right diagnose and the proper treatment plan.
You can find out more about the Nesacard, the benefits it has and how you can claim yours here: https://www.medihelp-assistance.com/medihope/nesacard/.