What you should know about sunburn, sunscreen, UV protective clothing and
the CANSA seal of recognition.
STAY SAFE IN THE SUN WHILE YOU'RE HAVING FUN
South Africa is known globally for its glorious sunshine; however, what is not mentioned is just
how dangerous our renowned sunshine is! The bad news is, the country has one of the highest incidences
of skin cancer in the world and it is rising. The good news is that skin cancer is easily preventable
and if detected early, is highly curable.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A 'SAFE' TAN
All sunburn is potentially dangerous. While people may consider a bronzed body or a peeling nose
as part of life in South Africa, it is really a tangible reminder of the risk of skin cancer. You may
not realize it, but the daily damage done by the sun's UV rays builds up over time, so that many
years from now it may result in melanoma or other forms of skin cancer. As much as 80% of UV-related
skin damage occurs by age 18. Just one blistering sunburn as a child significantly increases the
risk of developing melanoma in later life.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Everyone, although people with darker skin are less susceptible because their skin contains more
natural melanin, that protects skin from sun damage.
YOU ARE CONSIDERED HIGH-RISK IF YOU:
- Have a fair skin, especially if you have red hair
- Have many moles or skin spots
- Had skin cancer before, or it is prevalent in your family
- Play sport outdoors, especially during the hottest time of day
- Work in the sun
- Spend a lot of time driving
BE SUNSMART - STAY SAFE IN THE SUN
Choose to stay safe in the sun, whether it is hot or not. Sun safety habits formed at an
early age last a lifetime.
WHAT DOES A SUN PROTECTION FACTOR (SPF) MEAN?
If you usually start to burn within 5 minutes, a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of
15 protects your skin for 15 times as long, i.e. 75 minutes. Remember, there is no such
thing as a 'complete' block.
WHAT DOES UV MEAN?
Ultra Violet rays are part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth. There are
two kinds of UV rays that damage our skins. The broader UVB rays cause the browning reaction
that we call 'tanning' and are responsible for the painful burning, redness and ultimately, skin cancer.
UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can damage the structure of the cells, causing
ageing, as well as increasing the risk of cancer.
FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES TO BE SUNSMART!
- Stay in the shade as much as possible or under an umbrella. Remember that UV rays reflect off cement,
water, sand and even grass, so you can get sunburn in the shade! Remember, UV rays are not the
same as heat. You can get overexposed even when it is cool, so take care on windy or overcast days.
- Limit total time in the sun, especially between 10:00 and 15:00, when the
sun's rays are at their most harmful.
- Cover up. Wear a thickly woven hat with a wide brim and/or flap and clothing that is
densely woven. Look for UV protective clothing, swimwear, umbrellas and shade-netting
sporting the CANSA Seal of Recognition on the swing tags.
- Your eyes also need protection against the harsh African sun. Look out for sunglasses with
lenses recognized for effective UV protection by CANSA.
- Use a broad-spectrum (UVA & UVB) sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or
higher, preferably one bearing the CANSA Seal of Recognition. Apply sunscreen liberally to
all exposed skin. Remember the back of the neck, tips of ears, lips, arms and hands.
Re-apply frequently, especially after swimming. Remember that towel-drying removes
sunscreen. Scientists warn that sunscreen can only deliver its promised protection factor
if applied properly and in the correct thickness.
SELF-EXAMINATION MEANS SELF-PRESERVATION
Check your skin carefully every month and ask a family member or friend to examine your
back and the top of your head. If you notice any of these warning signs, see a doctor or
- Asymmetry - a mole or mark with one half unlike the other. Common moles are round and symmetrical.
- Border irregularities - scalloped or poorly
defined edges. Common moles have smooth,
- Colour variations and inconsistency - tan,
brown, black, red, white and blue.
Common moles are usually a single shade of
brown or black.
- Diameter larger than 6mm.
SUN BEDS ARE NOT SAFE
Avoid using sun beds and tanning booths. They deliver concentrated UVA radiation - in some cases
more UV than the sun! This causes your skin to age more rapidly, as well as putting you at
higher risk of developing skin cancer.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SKIN CANCER
There are three major forms of skin cancer, with melanoma being the most serious.
If left untreated, skin cancer can be life-threatening.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Raised, translucent, pearly nodules that may crust, ulcerate and sometimes bleed. Occurs most often on the face and other exposed areas, but can appear anywhere.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Usually raised, pink opaque nodules or patches that frequently form ulcers or sores in the centre. Appears most often on exposed areas of the body.
Often small, brown or black, or larger multi-coloured patches with an irregular outline which may crust and bleed. Malignant melanoma may occur in pre-existing moles or skin spots. They can also appear like freckles from previously normal skin.
THE CANSA SEAL OF RECOGNITION (CSOR)
This is your guarantee that
manufacturers of UV protective
products and clothing have complied with the strict set of
criteria developed by CANSA.
Products have to comply with the
SANS Sunscreen Standard before
the Seal of Recognition is awarded. CANSA's Seal of
Recognition appears on sunscreen products,
clothing, hats, sunglasses, umbrellas, vehicle glass
and shade-netting. If you want to stay safe in the
sun, be SunSmart and buy products sporting our
coveted Seal of Recognition.
Call us for help and advice
For more information on skin cancer and where to get
help, please call CANSA toll-free on 0800 22 66 22, write
to the Information Centre,
P 0 Box 2121
or visit their website:
Source: Cancer Association of South Africa
Article Date: 6 December 2004