Most people believe that melanoma is the only type of skin cancer, and we understand why. Melanoma is very popular, mostly because it’s the deadliest of all skin cancers. In reality, there are 3 skin cancer types and melanoma is the rarest of them all.
With melanoma or any other kind of skin cancer, the sun has been found to play a huge role. When we say the sun, we mean the UVA and UVB radiations which emanate from the sun. But it’s not the sun alone that releases these deadly rays.
“Other artificial sources such as solariums and sunbeds also radiate the UVR and people who have used a solarium have a greatly increased risk for skin cancer” explains Jane Homberger, a registered nurse and the founder of Skin Smart Australia.
What’s the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?
While both are harmful and should be avoided at all costs, Ultraviolet Ray A (UVA) and Ultraviolet Ray B (UVB) are not the same. The “UVA rays can penetrate deeply into the dermis” Jane says. In other words, they have a longer length of ray and are mostly responsible for skin ageing. UVB is shorter. But, it’s also fully capable of causing harm to the superficial layers of the skin.
Types of Skin Cancer
This is the most common of all skin cancer types, but thankfully, it is the least deadly. BCC is mainly caused by UV radiation from sun exposure. Little wonder why this skin cancer mostly affects areas such as the chest, face, shoulders, and back—they’re the most exposed to the sun.
This cancer type often manifests either as a flat pink scaly area or a raised pink pearly nodules. It also tends to not spread past the singular affected area. However, it does eat deep into the affected spot and can cause serious damage if not treated fast.
Like Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC for short) tends to also settle on sun-exposed areas of the body. However, it is characterized by a painful scaly lesion and can spread across various parts of the body. This is why treating this cancer as early as possible is key.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Because it spreads so rapidly, it is very difficult to treat. Melanoma evolves from the cell that produces melanin— the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Jane states that “melanoma rises in an existing mole, or it can grow as a new lesion. Just because a person had had a mole all their life doesn’t mean it can’t become melanoma when they’re adults”. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma can affect anyone at any age. Unlike BCC and SCC, it can grow on any part of the body, irrespective of whether or not the area is constantly exposed to the sun.
Factors that Determine Survival from Skin Cancer
- Early Diagnosis. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better.
- Genetic predisposition
- Specific Cancer Diagnosis.
The risk of skin cancer seems to be on the increase, especially in people under the age of 40. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before cancer manages to spread. It all starts with being aware of any change in your skin including hidden areas like your toes and scalp. Pay extra attention to your moles and seek medical attention the minute you notice an abnormality.
Why do you wear sunglasses? To cut down on glare when you’re driving? To keep you from squinting outdoors? To look cool?
These are all good reasons to wear your shades, but your sunglasses are more than a fashion statement. If you spend time outdoors, you can be at risk for eye problems from UV rays and should always wear sunglasses.
But they need to be the right sunglasses.
It’s not just our skin that needs sun protection, the cornea of our eye is also at risk of UV damage. Prolonged sun exposure has been linked with increased rates of cataracts and non-melanoma skin cancer of the eye and eyelid.
No one is immune to the effects of UV radiation, but certain groups have a higher risk of eye damage from UV rays. These include people who have light-coloured blue or green eyes; people with a preexisting eye disease like retinal dystrophy or macular degeneration; people who have had cataract surgery; and those who take medication that makes their body more sensitive to light.
So how do you protect your lids?
In Australia, all sunglasses must meet a certain standard and will fall into a lens category based on their UV protection measures.
The lens category provides a rating between 0-4.
Lens category 0: Light tint sunglasses or fashion spectacles These provide very limited reduction of sun glare and some UV protection.
Lens category 1: Light tint sunglasses or fashion spectacles These provide limited protection against sun glare and some UV protection; they are not suitable for driving in at night or under dull light conditions.
Lens category 2: General purpose sunglasses These provide good protection against sun glare and good UV protection; they are suitable for driving in at night or under dull light conditions.
Lens category 3: General purpose sunglasses These provide high protection against sun glare and good UV protection; they are not suitable for driving at night or under dull light conditions.
Lens category 4: Very dark special sunglasses – very high sun glare reduction for extreme conditions and good UV protection, they are not suitable for driving
Additional tips for choosing sunglasses:
– Bigger is better⠀
– Consider sunglasses that wrap around to protect from peripheral damage⠀
– Coloured lens does not provide additional protection⠀
– Fashion glasses do not protect the eyes from glare OR UV.
UV rays pass through clouds, so don’t be fooled into thinking protective eyewear isn’t necessary when the sky is cloudy. Even though shaded areas reduce UV exposure, your eyes can still be exposed to rays that bounce from buildings, roads and other surfaces.
So whenever you’re outdoors, it makes sense to keep your eyes—and your family’s eyes—protected with a pair of good sunglasses.
Did you know that not all UV light is blocked by sunscreen.
For example, “a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 protects against about 93% of UVB rays and one with an SPF of 30 protects against 97% of rays according to the Mayo Clinic. No SPF actually blocks 100% of UV rays and any sort of UV rays begins [the skin] damage process so it’s important also to to supplement your sunscreen use with trying to avoid direct sunlight.” These are the words of Sam Sheehan of SpotmyUV, we sat down with Sam in episode 8 of the ‘heal thy skin’ podcast and spoke about UV rays, types of sunscreen and a skin mimicking sticker that is raising the awareness of keeping safe in the sun.
In the US they’ve even got some sunscreens that are being advertised as a 100 SPF, which really doesn’t really convey the right message as sun screen just simply can’t protect us from 100% of the UV rays.
There is a common public misconception that the difference between SPF 15 and 30 is double the protection when really it’s just a few percent.
There are two main types of sunscreen
Those that contain minerals such as zinc oxide, or titanium oxide act as a physical block and are also known as physical sunscreens. They work by reflecting the UV rays similar to how white paint reflects light. Physical sunscreen is affiliated with the white colored noses on beachgoers through the 80s and 90s. Many modern sunscreens contain mineral elements but the manufacturing processes have changed and the manufacturers make the inorganic particles much smaller now so they appear to soak in or not have the same white zinc effect that they used to.
Chemical sunscreens on the other hand don’t actually physically deflect the UV light. Sam explains, “the molecules in chemical sunscreen are there to absorb the UV radiation. Chemical sunscreen absorb the UV radiation that slowly break down and release heat to prevent damage to the skin which is one of the reasons sunscreen needs to be reapplied”.
There are a lot of reports in the media of people being badly sunburnt even after reapplying sunscreen. There is an explanation for this, Sam states,
“sunscreen is notorious for [not] being used properly… I say never with almost an amount of certainty that very, very few people actually wear sunscreen properly… there’s a lot of clinical data out there that show average consumers use an average of 25% of what they should actually be”.
What is Spot my UV?
Spot my UV is a skin mimicking sticker that tells you when your sunscreen is no longer protecting you. The skin mimicking layer is important because sunscreen binds to the sticker in the same way as it binds to your face or your arm or your legs so it’s very accurate across many different activities.
The mission of Suncayr is to give you the UV awareness that you need to safely enjoy every day you spend outside. Sunscreen is not a complete solution. Since sunscreen is invisible when it’s both working and not working, how do you know that your sunscreen is still doing its job?
Listen to the full interview and hear Sam share how his journey into sunsmart awareness bought advanced technology and research to an everyday routine and the importance of knowing you’re protected in the sun.
To learn more about Suncayr visit:
To view the [me]elanoma campaign visit:
Listen to the podcast here: