Fact: as of May 2018, skin cancer is the sixth and seventh most common cancer in men and women respectively in Singapore, with an increase in younger patients being diagnosed with the disease.
Experts believe this is due to low awareness of safe sun habits including seeking shade, keeping yourself covered and, most importantly, using a broad spectrum sunscreen to keep sun damage at bay.
Besides the obvious causes of sun damage like sun bathing and outdoor sports where you’re directly exposed to the sun’s Ultra Violet A (UVA) and Ultra Violet B (UVB) rays, you can also rack up sun damage during everyday activities.
UVA rays can penetrate through glass, which means you need sun protection even when you’re taking the MRT or even just sitting at your desk near a window. And walking to your favourite hawker centre is no less damaging than being at the beach without sun protection for the same amount of time. Experts believe this incidental damage adds up over time, increasing our risk of skin cancer.
Staying safe in the sun
While you might not see the effects of sun damage immediately, unless you’re referring to sunburn from a day out at the beach or an afternoon hike, it will definitely show up in the years to come.
According to Amanda Baldwin, president of Supergoop!: “Everything we do not like about our skin comes from the sun. So wrinkles, dark spots—all those things we associate with ageing —happen because we do not protect our skin enough from harmful UV rays. Other damaging effects include dull and patchy skin, drier complexions, age spots and, of course, skin cancer.”
To keep skin healthy and prevent the occurrence of skin cancer, it’s essential to wear sun protection every day—even when it’s cloudy or raining. The key is to apply a generous layer 15 minutes before you head out.
“A lot of people think they are all set in the morning but it’s key to reapply at least every two hours,” advises Amanda, who adds that it should be done more often if you’re outdoors for a prolonged period of time, in the water, and when you’re involved in a sweaty activity.
And it’s not just the skin on your face that requires protection; always remember to apply it on your ears, neck, hands and décolletage for maximum protection. If you plan on wearing a pair of slippers, put some sun protection on your feet too.
Prevention is better than cure
Even while you practise safe sun habits, it’s good to stay on the safe side and keep an eye out for any skin abnormalities that may indicate the presence of skin cancer using the ABCDE method:
A is for asymmetrical spots
B refers to border—does the spot have a spreading or irregular edge?
C is for colour, so look out for moles that are lighter or darker than usual
D stands for diameter, and you need to check if the spots are increasing in size
E is for evolving—be on the alert if a mole starts to change in any way
Take time to check your entire body, as the symptoms may appear on parts of your body that may not even be exposed to the sun.
Here are some sunscreens to help you stay safe in the sun.
Text: Sofia Kim