The sun is still the main cause of skin cancer


  • Wellness
  • Sunday, 21 Jul 2019

Avoid overexposure to the sun and apply sunscreen if you must go outdoors between 10am and 4pm. Photo: TNS

Findings from a new World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) show that unlike many other cancers, your diet and exercise patterns do not have a substantial effect on your risk of skin cancer.

The study looked at a number of lifestyle factors including alcohol, obesity and coffee but found that the sun is still the number one cause of skin cancer. This new report analysed 55 studies from around the world, comprising more than 13 million adults.

Skin cancer survivor Nickie Murtagh said: “Until recently, I usually forgot to wear sun cream, or didn’t apply it often enough. And I was too vain to wear hats because they didn’t suit me and left my hair all mussed up. But I want to tell everyone – parents in particular – about the importance of protecting themselves from the sun, not just their children.

“Mums like me always look after everyone else, but we may fail to take care of ourselves. I knew all about being safe from the sun, but my failure to apply that knowledge to myself has left me with a hole in my head and scarring in my leg.”

Susannah Brown, acting head of Research Interpretation said: “We see this report as good news when it comes to diet, exercise and cancer.

“The evidence that overexposure to the sun causes skin cancer has been consistent for decades. However, many people still don’t protect themselves from the sun, putting themselves at increased risk of skin cancer. As the weather gets warmer, we want our report to remind people that there are simple but important steps they can take to prevent skin cancer.”

It is important for everyone to be safe in the sun, whether at home or abroad. WCRF has teamed up with National Cancer Society Malaysia (NSCM) to provide some practical tips to lower your risk of skin cancer.

Dr Murallitharan M, medical director at NCSM said: “It is Important to realise that even though Malaysians are non-Caucasians and have lower skin cancer rates, if and when they do get it, it’s much more severe, compared to Caucasians.

Here are three important tips for Malaysians:

  • Stay protected. Avoid exposure to high-intensity sunlight between 10am and 4pm. If you do go out, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 and above with zinc oxide, titanium or avobenzone) 30 minutes before sun exposure.

  • Do a monthly self-skin examinations. This includes looking closely at your nails, mouth, gums, palms, soles, groin and buttocks area.

  • If you see some areas of darkened skin, patches or discoloration, pay close attention for changes and always seek your doctor’s advice on this.

The report also showed strong evidence that consuming arsenic in drinking water increases the risk of skin cancer while consuming high-dose beta-carotene supplements is unlikely to have a substantial effect on the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

While obesity is not a cause of skin cancer, it is still a cause of 12 other types of cancer.

Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being more active each day and maintaining a healthy weight are important ways you can reduce your cancer risk. — National Cancer Society Malaysia

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