Everything You Need To Know About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one of the top 10 most frequent cancers in Singapore, representing the sixth most common cancer in males and seventh in females.
Despite the high incidence of skin cancer and high levels of UV radiation in the country, skin cancer and sun care awareness are often acknowledged to be severely lacking among Singaporeans. Data published by the Singapore Cancer Registry shows that the age-specific incidence rate for non-melanoma skin cancers in the above-65 age group has more than doubled in the last 50 years: From 47.9 per 100,000 between 1968 and 1972 to 109.6 per 100,000 between 2013 and 2017.
As we celebrate Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, it is crucial for us to understand what skin cancer is, and how we can actively prevent this health risk from happening to us and our loved ones.
Types of Skin Cancer
Typically, there are four main types of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma often develops on the head or neck area, and is mainly caused by sun exposure or radiation therapy. It tends to grow slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. This type is rarely fatal and most commonly appears after the age of 40.
Squamous cell carcinoma is usually found on areas of the skin that is burned, damaged by chemicals, or exposed to X-rays, such as the lips, intestines, and even eyes. It commonly develops in people over 50, and appears as flat, red, and scaly patches.
Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer, often occurring on the back in men and the legs in women. It occurs when something goes wrong in the melanocytes and is the most likely to spread to other parts of the body, hence making it more dangerous if not treated at an early stage.
Merkel cell cancer is a rare, highly-aggressive form of cancer. It starts in hormone-producing cells just beneath the skin and in the hair follicles, usually found in the head and neck region.
Causes of Skin Cancer
Experts agree that the number one cause of skin cancer is certainly damage caused by UV radiation. Factors contributing to UV damage include frequent periods of intense sun exposure, living in a sunny climate, and even sunburn frequency – if you have had five or more incidents of bad sunburn with blistered and peeling skin in your childhood or teen years, it doubles your risk of developing skin cancer later in life!
An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles has also been identified as an important risk factor for melanoma. Generally, most people will have between 10 and 40 moles by the time they are adults. If you have more than 30, you must pay special attention to the characteristics and numbers of unusual moles, which may indicate skin cancer.
While having fairer skin is commonly (and correctly) attributed to a greater risk of skin cancer, it is wrong to assume that having a darker skin tones means 100% protection from developing skin cancer. In fact, many patients with darker skin tones often receive a late diagnosis due to delayed recognition of symptoms, and this can be life-threatening. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the 5-year melanoma survival rate for black people in the United States is 65%, compared with 91% for white people.
Genetics also play a part, so if you have a family history of skin cancer, you are more likely to be at greater risk and should take greater precaution. There are also some well-established genetic conditions that lead to a significantly increased risk of developing multiple skin cancers at an earlier age: for example, patients who are immunosuppressed are commonly identified as having higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Signs of possible skin cancer
Although skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in Singapore, many of us do not pay much attention to some of the red flags associated with the illness.
A general rule-of-thumb is to take note of any strange & unusual pigmentation on your skin – do not just dismiss them as a normal after-effect of sun exposure!
- New moles.
- Moles that increase in size.
- An outline of a mole that becomes notched or ragged.
- A spot that has been changing in colour, or is varied or pearlescent .
- A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
- The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated.
- Moles that itch or tingle.
- Moles or spots that bleed or weep.
- Spots that look different from the others.
- Lesions or sores that never completely heal.
Please note that this is a general guide and should not be taken as an official diagnosis of skin cancer. Should you spot any of these symptoms, please consult a medical professional for a proper check-up and diagnosis.
How to reduce chances of developing skin cancer
While it is not possible for us to control genetics, it is certainly possible to reduce the damage caused by UV radiation!
Engaging in proper and safe sun care practices is one of the best ways to reduce chances of developing skin cancer. This means not just applying sunscreen on selected areas of your skin on beach days, but ensuring that your whole body is getting the necessary protection 24/7 – even when you’re indoors! UVA rays that enter our windows, as well as blue light emitted from electronic devices, can damage our skin even as we are working from home.
Broad-spectrum topical sunscreens are highly recommended for their ability to protect skin from a wide range of UV rays. If you struggle to find one, consider Heliocare’s topical sunscreen range, which has the best coverage against UVA & UVB rays in the market. The unique formula, consisting of patented Fernblock Technology, protects skin cells (DNA) and repairs the damage caused by UV rays, hence reducing the risk of skin cancer.
To make sure that you’re protecting every inch of your body from possible skin cancer, we highly recommend supplementing your topical sunscreen with the Heliocare 360º Capsule. This oral sunblock is formulated with Fernblock®+ Technology, which provides maximum efficiency for immune protection against blue light, infrared hazards, UVB & UVA, as well as free radicals from inside out. It is also enhanced with prebiotics, cystine, vitamins B3, C & E to improve skin health and lower the risk of hyperpigmentation – definitely a win-win situation!
For more information on proper sun care practices to prevent skin cancer development, you may check out this article.
Ready to find a Heliocare product to protect yourself against skin cancer, but don’t know what’s best? Feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com!
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