We are constantly being warned about the sun and its harmful properties, but I doubt whether we pay enough heed to these warnings. We thought we’d enlighten you as to just how dangerous the sun really is and what you can do to arm yourself against one of Mother Nature’s most effective assassins, sunlight.
“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it” is the opening line to Baz Luhrmann’s inspirational 1999 hit single “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. This popular song, crammed with inspiring life lessons and positive advice, places particular emphasis on the importance of wearing sunscreen. And here at Leisure Boating we share those exact sentiments.
It’s been 14 years since the song debuted on our radio waves, and Baz’s song was right on the money. His “advice for the future” clearly hit the nail on the head as global warming and the rise in earth temperatures has caused the number of new skin cancer cases to skyrocket.
The message is unequivocal: Mother Earth is getting warmer. Green house gasses, deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels have contributed to a 0.8° C rise in the Earth’s average surface temperature – with about two thirds of the increase occurring since 1980. A recent study suggested that rising temperatures are causing an increasing risk to those who spend too much time in the sun, such as avid boaters, swimmers and fishermen – in other words, you!
According to an article entitled “Global Warming is increasing skin cancer” (www.metro.co.uk), scientists from the Netherlands and Argentina found that the same amount of sunshine a number of years ago was less harmful than it is today. They also warned that a rise in average summer temperatures of between two and four percent could produce ‘substantial increases’ in the number of new cases of skin cancer.
Sunlight causes Skin Cancer!
“Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a known carcinogen,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. “And melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is increasing at an alarming rate. When UV rays hit your skin, your body goes into defence mode,” explains Tanzi. “In an effort to prevent DNA damage, cells produce melanin, turning your skin golden.” But at that point the cells are already injured and have the potential to become basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.
Dermatologist and president of the South African Melanoma Advisory Board Dr Dagmar Whitaker says: “South Africa has one of the highest incidences, if not the highest, of malignant melanoma in the world (similar to that of Australia). To date, we do not have accurate statistics, but the estimated figure for the Cape is 69 new cases per year per population of 100 000 people, compared to 65 per 100 000 for Australia. This translates to one in 1 429 people developing a malignant melanoma.”
Southern Africa has one of the highest monitored levels of ultra-violet radiation, only equalled by Australia, New Zealand and some parts of South America. The African, especially Sub-Saharan, continent has a higher UV-concentration because where the sun is standing almost vertical over the equator the time for absorption of harmful radiation is shorter.
Make no mistake – skin cancer can kill you. According to the US Skin Cancer Foundation, one person dies every hour from melanoma. “But in 99 percent of those cases, catching it earlier might have saved his or her life,” says Tanzi.
Shocking Facts about Skin Cancer you probably didn’t know:
• Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in South Africa.
• By the age of 18, most people have received 80% of their lifetime sun exposure.
• Single severe cases of sunburn during childhood can double the risk of skin cancer.
• Regular application of sunscreen with a SPF 15 during the first 18 years of life can significantly reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by more than 75%.
• It’s advisable to use sunscreen every day, because incidental exposure to the sun – while driving your car or mowing the lawn – accounts for 80% of a lifetime’s exposure.
• Remember to use sunscreen on cloudy days too, as 80% of sunshine can penetrate smog, mist, light, cloud and fog.
• Dermatologists estimate that, should parents stop applying sunscreen on their children, the number of new skin cancer cases could jump by tens of millions over the next two decades.
• Women of all ages are more likely than their male counterparts to use products with an SPF 15 or greater and to use any suncare product. This is probably one reason why sunburn frequency is higher for men than women. For adults over the age of 40, men are more likely to develop melanoma than women. For adults under 40, the reverse is true.
• Sun beds and tanning lamps emit UVA rays and are unsafe even though advertisements may claim the contrary.
• A single dose of sunburn just once can cause irreparable skin damage.
• Skin reactions can happen when sunlight interacts with certain chemicals or medications. Certain antibiotics, colognes and perfumes can cause irritation or cause your skin to become sensitive to the sun. A sunscreen can help protect your skin and prevent such reactions. Check with your doctor.