Non Acupuncture Topic – Skin Cancer
This week I’m going to write about a non acupuncture topic – skin cancer from a Western medical point of view.
With the beautiful weather we’ve had in Ireland this week I’m going to write on skin cancer and tips to prevent damage to your skin.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a disease of skin cells and most cases are caused by Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or sunbeds.
There are different types of skin cancer:
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer
These are the most common types of skin cancer. They are also known as non-melanoma skin cancers.
Look out for:
- A new growth or sore that does not heal in a few weeks.
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed.
- Constant skin ulcers that are not explained by other causes.
Melanoma skin cancer
Melanoma is quite rare but greater numbers of people are being diagnosed with it each year. It is the most serious form of skin cancer. But if you spot it early, it is very treatable. But if not, it can spread to other parts of your body and can be fatal.
Look out for:
- A new or changing mole.
- Changes in colour, shape or size of your moles.
What increases your risk of skin cancer
Everyone who spends time outdoors is at risk of skin cancer, not just people who sunbathe. This includes people who work and play outdoors. However there are a few things that increase your risk even more.
Most people in Ireland know how important it is to be sunsmart when abroad. But when in Ireland they don’t think it is. The truth is even if you have never been abroad you can get skin cancer. The UV rays here are just as harmful as UV rays in warmer climates.
Your skin type
There are people with many different types of skin in Ireland. No matter what your skin type you need to be SunSmart. However, three out of every four of us have skin that puts us at greater risk of skin cancer. That means you if you have:
- Pale or freckled skin that does not tan or burns before it tans.
- Naturally red or fair hair.
- Blue, green or grey eyes.
- A large number of moles (50 or more).
- A history of sunburn or burn easily.
Other things that increase your risk are if:
- You already had skin cancer.
- A close family member has or had skin cancer.
If you use a sunbed
Using a sunbed increases your risk of skin cancer.If you use sunbeds the best thing you can do is stop using it from now on. As with all people, whether they use sunbeds or not, get to know your skin and check it regularly for change.
One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of skin cancer is never let your skin burn. In particular avoid getting sunburnt as a child or young adult as it increases your risk of skin cancer even more. Whether you get sunburnt in Ireland or abroad it has the same affect on your skin. UV rays from the sun damage skin cells. Much of this damage is repaired but some skin can remain damaged. Each time you get sunburnt the damage builds up and can lead to skin cancer later in life.
Getting a tan
It’s a myth that tanned skin is a sign of good health and wellbeing. Tanned skin is skin already damaged by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. In fact, by the time you get a tan your body is trying to protect itself from further damage. The bottom line is there is no such thing as a safe tan from UV exposure.
Using fake tan as a sunscreen
If you must have a tan, from what we know at the moment, getting it from a bottle is a safer way than from the sun or sunbeds. But be aware that using fake tans gives only a tiny amount of protection from UV rays that damage your skin. Even if you use a fake tan with an SPF, the protection will only last for a few hours.
The signs of cancer
The sooner a cancer is detected the better your chances of survival. Get to know the signs and symptoms to look out for.
It’s important to know your body and what is normal for you. Then you can spot any changes that could be a sign of cancer. The main changes to look out for are:
- A lump or a sore that does not heal
- A mole that changes in shape, size or colour or bleeds in unusual circumstances
- Ongoing cough or hoarseness that last longer than three weeks
- Change in bowel or bladder habit
- Unexplained weight loss or tiredeness
Many of these symptoms can also be due to complaints other than cancer, but regardless, if you have any of these signs and symptoms talk to your doctor without delay.
Until next time, take care,