Ranked among the top 10 most common cancers in both men and women, skin cancer is a potentially fatal disease that begins in the skin’s topmost layer and can severely affect our quality of life. Left untreated, it can even metastasise and spread to other parts of the body.
Despite its pervasiveness, skin cancer is actually very preventable if the right precautions are taken. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, and limiting our exposure significantly reduces our chances of developing skin cancer. In a tropical climate like Singapore, this might seem impractical. However, following a few easy preventive measures and going for occasional skin cancer screening in Singapore can go a long way in decreasing our risk.
1) Limit Time In The Midday Sun
Generally defined as the time between 10am to 4pm, this is the time when the intensity of the sun’s UV rays are at their peak. UV rays are absorbed by the atmosphere but at midday, the sun is higher in the sky and the rays have less atmosphere to travel through, resulting in higher UV levels.
What does this mean for us? Basically, we should avoid going into the sun during this time as much as possible. Especially when engaging in activities like swimming where our body might be fully exposed to the sun for long periods.
You can also check the NEA website for a daily reading on the UV index at different intervals to help plan your day.
2) Use The Right Sunscreen
It is easy to get confused when it comes to choosing sunscreen. There are several types, each touting their own benefits. Our skin cancer specialists recommend a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both types of UV radiation (UVA and UVB). The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number should be at least 30 or higher.
Sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher SPF sunscreens last the same amount of time as lower numbered sunscreens, so it is necessary to reapply as often as is recommended by the label.
Learn More: Shedding Light On Skin Cancer
3) Wear Protective Clothing
Living in Singapore means we can’t avoid the midday sun forever. If we have to go out into the sunlight, one solution would be to wear clothing that can shield our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. A simple sun hat with a wide brim can work wonders, as can long-sleeved shirts.
4) Examine Our Body For Signs Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is most treatable in the early stages. By periodically doing a mole check for the tell-tale signs of skin cancer, you can seek medical attention in a timely manner to get any unusual discolourations or moles examined by a professional.
Changes in your skin such as a new growth, sores that do not heal, or a change in an old growth are all possible symptoms of skin cancer. For the most serious type of skin cancer known as melanoma, the way to remember the warning signs is to use the A-B-C-D-E method.
- Asymmetry – Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape or parts that look very different?
- Border – Is the border irregular or does it look jagged?
- Colour – Is the colour uneven?
- Diameter – Is the size of the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
- Evolving – Has the mole or spot changed in any way in the past few weeks or months?
Melanomas are the most invasive type of skin cancer and come with the highest risk of death, so they should not be taken lightly. Spotting a melanoma early and consulting with a skin dermatologist can potentially lead to much better health outcomes, so check your skin regularly for any of the signs listed above.
There is no foolproof way to prevent skin cancer entirely. However, the steps we have outlined in this article ensure that our skin is less exposed to the sun’s damaging UV rays. So the next time you go out into the sun, make sure to bring your hat or umbrella and put on sunscreen.
As a skin centre based in Singapore, Thomson Specialist Skin Centre provides patient-centric services that cover a broad range of dermatological conditions. Contact us today to make an appointment with our team or let us know if you have any questions.