Protecting your skin during summer

It’s getting hotter and the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) is encouraging people to throw shade at skin cancer this summer.

According to the association, South Africa has one of the highest monitored ultra violet levels globally. This results in the country’s population having one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world.

In 2013, according to the 2013 National Cancer Registry, 23 704 incidents of skin cancer were diagnosed with 13 923 in males and 9 781 in females. Frequent exposure to sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer so it is important to remember to be responsible while having fun in the sun, CANSA warned.

There are three main types of skin cancer that can affect everyone regardless of skin type, age or ethnic background. The two most common types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. These are linked to long-term exposure to the sun. If left untreated, these can lead to disfigurement, or the loss of an eye, nose or ear, so early detection is important.

Malignant Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is linked with short, sharp bursts of over-exposure, so even one incident of bad sunburn, especially in childhood, can later on in life, trigger damage and develop into a melanoma. If detected early, it can be successfully treated.

According to some research, although people with darker skins are at a lower risk of melanoma than those with lighter skin, the majority of basal cell carcinomas, in people with darker skins, occur in sun-exposed skin.

In darker skins, 70% of melanomas have been reported to be below the ankle and appearing on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

CANSA sun safety tips:

Avoid direct sunlight between 10am and 3pm. Babies younger than six months should never be exposed to direct sunlight.

Cover up by wearing thickly-woven hats with wide brims and loose-fitting clothes made of tightly-woven fabric.

Apply generous amounts of sunscreen frequently, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) between 20 and 50, and for fair to very fair skin, between SPF 30 to 50. Look out for the expiry date on the sunscreen package. Sunscreen usually expires two years after manufacture date, and once opened the product should not be used for longer than one year.

Protect eyes by wearing sunglasses with a UV protection rating of UV400.

It’s essential that skin is regularly checked for changes, unusual marks or moles.

Visit for more information.

CANSA offers multi-lingual support on WhatsApp at 072 197 9305 for English and Afrikaans and 071 867 3530 for Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati. Follow CANSA on Twitter: @CANSA (, join CANSA on Facebook: CANSA The Cancer Association of South Africa and follow CANSA on Instagram: @cancerassociationofsouthafrica

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