As part of World Cancer Day, we are running a series of posts on skin cancer prevention and photoprotection. To learn more, follow us on our social media channels.
In contrast to many other cancers. the cause of skin cancer is well established. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary cause of chronic skin damage, premature ageing, and skin cancer. Yet despite its known damaging effects, 61% of holidaymakers have admitted to actively bask in the sun for long periods to ensure they come back from their holiday tanned.
In other words, there is still a belief that tanned skin is a sign of good health, relaxation and leisure. Unfortunately, a UV-induced tan is a sign that our body is damaged and trying to repair itself.
A killer accessory?
A tan is a defensive mechanism elicited by our skin in an attempt to minimise further UV damage. In response to this damage, our skin cells start to produce the brown/black pigment eumelanin, which can absorb some UV light, preventing it from mutating our DNA (the precursor event to skin cancer), and activating other protective processes. The golden glow, therefore, is a warning sign that we have caused irreparable damage.
Contrary to the cosmetic fad, tanning causes long-term damage to skin and removal of skin cancers are associated with sometimes large and disfiguring scars. Sun damage is also cumulative, meaning signs of photoaging and skin cancer are a result of the exposure to UV light encountered throughout your life, no matter how infrequent or brief this exposure ay be. Thus, adhering to a regular photoprotective routine, such as wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, will not only keep you looking young but dramatically reduce your risk of skin cancer.