Skin cancer is one of the most avoidable cancers. Because skin cancer can be seen, it can be detected early and the major risk factor, UV exposure, can be reduced by changes in sun behaviour.
Wearing protective clothes, avoiding direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm during summer (when UV irradiance is at its peak), seeking shade and regularly applying sunscreens are the main recommended means of UV protection.
Individuals with blue eyes, red or blond hair, a fair complexion which sunburns easily, suntans poorly and freckles with sun exposure are the most at-risk for skin cancer.
Special care should be taken to protect children as overexposure to the sun during childhood increases the lifelong risk of skin cancer.
Primary prevention is about inhibiting the development of disease before it occurs and it consists mainly of limiting the amount of UV exposure.
There are different types of sun exposure:
- Incidental sun exposure - time spent outdoors on sunny days during routine daily activities.
- Recreational sun exposure – time spent enjoying recreational or sports activities outdoors in the sun.
- Occupational sun exposure – time spent by people working outdoors (farmer, fisherman, life guard, postal or maintenance working etc.).
- Intentional sun exposure – time spent outside with the deliberate aim of getting a suntan.
Secondary prevention involves detecting skin cancer in its earliest stages so that it can be treated successfully. This means doing regular self-examinations, knowing your own risk factors and visiting your dermatologist regularly for a skin check-up.