Before hitting the beach, watch out for that mole!

Ingy Deif, Tuesday 6 Aug 2013

Beaches usually equate to summer vacation, but before you bask in the sun learn the simple things that work - and what doesn't work - to protect you from cancer

Photo: Reuters

After times of stress and turmoil, nothing compares to chilling under the sunshine for a bit. Unfortunately in Egypt, there is still a lack of awareness regarding the hazards prolonged sun exposure without sunblock or skin open to the sun.

Not wearing sunblock increases the probability of getting burnt, which subsequently can cause melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

According tothe National Cancer Institute in Egypt, Egyptians skin type has an advantage. Although in Europe melanoma cases have significantly increased in the last decade, in Egypt the numbers are quite low, to an extent that no recent statistic in that regard was available.

Awareness is vital though, as early detection of skin cancer and complete removal of the tissue or mole can raise the survival rates to 97 percent.

On that, National Laser Institute Professor of Dermatology and Laser Therapy Dr Mona Soliman elaborates that although melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is only one of several kinds.

"Most Egyptians are not skin types 1 or 2, that’s why incidents of skin cancer are relatively low in comparison with countries where people have lighter skin colour - it is one advantage we have here," says Dr Soliman.

She continues that although genes and changes due to aging are factors that cause this type of cancer, unprotected exposure to sunrays is a primary cause that many Egyptians are still unaware of.

Dr Soliman says the following guide lines are essential:

  • Applying sunscreen on daily basis
  • Applying sunscreen should be in abundance and should start at least 20 minutes before exposure to the sun.
  • Watch for any changes in the skin and check with your dermatologist periodically to spot any potential risk that could lie in a mole or a colored skin pigment.

Dr Soliman also points out that people should be aware of the following facts:

  • 10 am - 3pm is the peak of dangerous rays, but even before or after this period, sunblock should be applied
  • It is absolutely not true that clothes protect from ultraviolet rays, this means that caps, head scarfs-for women- are not an adequate protection
  • Shade is not a safety line; harmful rays can reach you under the shade of an umbrella
  • Glass is not a protector; some cancerous cells develop especially on the side of the face that is exposed to the sun while driving a vehicle, for instance
  • For children it is important to apply a sun protection lotion formulated especially for children, so as not to deprive them from the essential vitamin D
  • Men should apply sunscreens on the bald parts of their heads, as these are more prone to damage

Dermatology consultant Dr Hassan Farrag says a person is at high risk if these factors are combined:

  • Your family has a history of melanoma or another kind of skin cancer
  • You have fair complexion or hair
  • You already have more moles or freckles
  • As a child you were exposed to the sun without protection for long periods
  • You were every severely sunburnt

Properties of dangerous moles

  • They suddenly become uneven in colour or if the colour changes suddenly
  • They develop an uneven edge or border
  • You notice an elevation in the texture of the mole
  • The diametre is large, as non-threatening moles usually are small in size
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