This month is skin cancer awareness month... Now, this is an awareness month we can get behind. Skin cancer isn’t spoken about nearly half as much as it should be. We think it’s a future problem if any. But not taking action against it now can dramatically increase the likelihood of it developing later on in life. So, let's talk about it.
Most of us spend our youth worshipping the sun and using ‘getting our vitamin D’ as an excuse, which is kind of true. But we definitely don’t need as much sun exposure as you think. Sunlight helps us to produce vitamin D which is essential for our health. But one study carried out by Cancer Research estimated that only 9 minutes of lunchtime sunlight each day in the UK is enough for lighter skin tones, and 25 minutes for darker skin tones - a lot less than you thought, right?
Reducing your risk of skin cancer doesn’t mean avoiding the sun altogether. That’d be an impossible task. It just means taking precautions in our younger years that our older selves will be thankful for, because in reality, being beautifully bronzed from the sun, or worse, from sun beds, isn’t worth getting skin cancer for. Especially when fake tan exists now (a huge shoutout to the inventor).
What causes skin cancer?
The main cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can damage the skin’s DNA which causes the production of abnormal DNA cells.When the skin’s DNA is damaged, its function is altered, and it loses control over skin cell growth and can quickly multiply into a cluster of cancer cells.
There are three major types of skin cancer. Each of them develops in a different skin cell which determines the kind of skin cancer it is.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of skin cancer which begins in the basal cells, these cells are found at the bottom of the epidermis and their job is to produce new skin cells as the old ones die. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the slowest growing type of skin cancer that doesn’t tend to spread, so it can usually be cured when caught in the early stages with minimal damage caused to the skin.
They can take the shape of red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, open sores or scar-like skin without an injury. They’re pretty easy to spot as they typically develop in areas most exposed to the sun.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
SquamousCell Carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that make up the top layer of the epidermis. Their purpose is to simply line the skin. When they turn cancerous, they appear as rough, thick scaly patches that can bleed and/or itch - lookout for these on any part of the body, sun-exposed or not. This type of skin cancer isn’t usually life-threatening, but if left untreated and reaches the later stages, it can become dangerous.
Melanoma is rarer and develops in the melanocytes, the cells that give our skin its colour. You don’t want to mess with melanoma, it’s the most vicious type of skin cancer and responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma can form in an existing mole and will change its size, colour or shape. But it can also create new irregular, multiple-toned moles that can increase in size.
What can you do to reduce your risk for skin cancer?
Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily
Now we know UV rays are the primal cause of skin cancer and always present in daylight, it’s time to take sunscreen seriously. No exceptions. Especially when it’s a cloudy day - there’s no heat signal to tell you you’re getting toasted and it’s time to step into the shade.
It’s important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect you against both UVA and UVB rays with a minimum of SPF 30. This means you’re good for thirty times longer than the time it takes your skin to burn. But this doesn’t mean you should count down the clock and wait until the very last minute to reapply it -the thrill of whether you will or will not make it in time isn’t worth it. The protective barrier created by sunscreen begins to break down the moment you apply it to the skin and step into daylight, so it’s recommended you re-apply every 2 hours to keep its strength up.
Keep an eye on the expiration date. Using a sunscreen you bought at the airport last summer might not keep you protected this summer. But SPF doesn’t have to be complicated, read our blog on SPF made simple with 6 tips and tricks to master it once and for all.
Wearing sunscreen every day is a good place to start. But there are certain times of the day you should avoid being in direct sunlight. The sun is hottest, and its UV rays are at their strongest from noon until 3 pm, so it’s best to seek shade during these times if you can.
But we know this isn’t always possible. If you know you’re going to be in an area with very little shade on a hot day, consider wearing a hat and lightweight, breathable clothing that doesn’t expose so much of your skin.
Don’t get sunburnt
This is easier said than done, we know, but sun burn goes far beyond a few days of pain. Sunburn is a sign of cellular damage to the skin which increases the risk of skin cancer developing. So, make sure to use SPF daily and move into the shade when UV rays are at their peak. These small acts of kindness towards your skin will make a huge difference to your level of skin cancer risk.
Get skin cancer screenings
Dermatologists are rarely visited unless you have a skin concern but catching skin cancer early gives you the best chance of making a full recovery. We suggest checking in once a year with a dermatologist to examine your skin for any suspicious moles or growths. Removing them can help to prevent it from worsening or spreading to other parts of the body if they’re cancerous.
While we typically notice new features on our skin, melanoma has a bad habit of developing in hard to see places such as your head, neck, and even in between your toes. Checking your own body regularly is always a good idea, but dermatologists know what they’re looking for and won’t miss something that we might ourselves.
Avoid sun beds
Sun beds give off the same UVA and UVB rays as the sun, but they’re more dangerous as the skin is much closer to the source. Many sun beds also give out more intense UV rays than the midday sun in the tropics (wow). If you wouldn’t sit out in the sun at this time on holiday, you probably shouldn’t begetting sun beds either.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, using a sun bed just once before the age of 35increases the chances of developing melanoma skin cancer by 75%! Instead, we recommend using a fake tanner for a tropical golden glow without harmful UV rays.
Does fake tan dry out your skin and cling to dry patches? Image Skincare has found a solution to your problem. This formula will deeply hydrate the skin with a time-release of moisture, so you’ll get a hit of hydration throughout the day with antioxidant benefits. It’s a gradual tanner that develops into a natural glow with a super flattering shimmer that’ll catch the light in all the right places. Apply after exfoliation and massage into the skin like a lotion. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards or your palms will sell you out for using a fake tan.
This instant fake tan is made from all-natural ingredients so you can skip out on UV rays and harsh toxins. You don’t have to travel to a tropical destination for a sun-kissed look when Aussie Bronze has perfectly captured it in a bottle to apply anytime, anywhere. Apply it to your skin and the tropics will come to you. With no developing time and fake tan smell-free, last minute plans will always seem like a good idea. The colour is buildable from a light wash to a deep tan. To wash off, simply jump in the shower and watch it effortlessly slide off.
Add retinol into your skincare routine
Retinol is beauty’s worst kept secret for beautiful skin. The vitamin A derivative helps to calm acne, fade dark spots, stimulates collagen and elastin and restores natural radiance (you can read more about it from us here).But did you know retinol might also be able to help prevent skin cancer? It’s a controversial topic, but several studies are being carried out and showing promising results against some skin cancers as it can create new skin cells which may prevent cancerous cells from overtaking.
But don’t forget to use SPF and take extra care whilst in the sun when using retinol, as it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight with its newly produced skin cells.
If you're worried about something, it's better to be safe than sorry. Consult a dermatologist immediately if you have concerns about something you've found on your skin. We recommend our friend and expert consultant Dr. Daniel Glass