The UAE is known for its searing temperatures. This does not mean that life stops. Most residents hop into air-conditioned vehicles, try to score underground parking or try to park as close as possible to the venue when they go out. Additionally, most buildings are properly air-conditioned, so there is minimum sun exposure for many. However, there are times when we have no choice but to bear the heat. Also, most beach lovers, hopefully covered in UV blocking sunscreen will still brave the heat for an afternoon by the sea.
The month of May was observed as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. www.skincancer.org defines skin cancer as “… the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.”
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure that usually leads to sunburn, especially in persons who are genetically predisposed to the disease. It results in cancerous growths that develop on unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells. Unrepaired damage can be from the effect of ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds. This triggers mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours. These malignant tumours originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. Melanoma can be skin-coloured, pink, red, purple, blue or white. The majority of Melanomas tend to be black or brown. It is important to note that Melanoma kills thousands of people annually.
What can you do?
Examine your skin each month (head to toe) for any unusual or suspicious lesions. Be on the look out for new moles or growth. Anyone who has had over 100 moles may be at a greater risk. Also check out existing growths that begin to grow more or change significantly in other ways. Pay very keen attention to lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal, as these could be alarm signals. Know what you are looking for. There are also non-Melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
Protect your skin
- Protect yourself by reducing the time that you spend in the sun. stay in the shade as much as possible during peak temperatures (10:00am – 4:00pm).
- Avoid getting sunburn.
- Cover up! Wear protective clothing that includes a broad rimmed hat, shayla/guthra and uv-blocking sunglasses.
- Apply sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside (recommended amount 1 ounce/2 tbsps.). Re-apply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. Use a broad (UV/UVB) sunscreen with an spf of 15 or higher everyday. For extended outdoor activities, use water- resistant, broad-spectrum (UV/UVB)) sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher.
- Stay away from tanning and uv tanning booths.
- Keep new-borns out of the sun and remember to use sunscreen on babies that are 6 months old and older.
- See your physician each year for a professional skin exam.
Physicians have developed two specific strategies for early recognition of the disease; these are ABCDEs and the Ugly Duckling sign. The ABCDEs refer to asymmetry (A), border irregularity (b), colour variability (c), diameter greater than 6 mm (d), and evolution or change (E).
An irregularly pigmented mole that looks different from other irregularly pigmented moles in the same person, referred to as an “Ugly Duckling”, has been associated with malignant Melanoma. Both the ABCDEs and Ugly Duckling concept have been widely debated by physicians as to their shortcomings. Most agree that these methods are extremely useful in diagnosing Melanoma.
Good & the great news
The good news is that once detected and treated early, Melanoma is almost always curable. If not, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body where it may become more difficult to treat and can be fatal. The great news is protecting against sun damage means protecting yourself against Melanoma. Protect yourself!