This summer we all enjoy heading to the beach and local spots to soak up the sun’s warm rays. However, it is important to consider the risks that come with this enjoyable activity. This blog will be the first in a series on this subject. Today we’ll dive into some of the stats around this unforgiving disease here in Aotearoa. We’ll also expand on one of the most common types of skin cancers; Basal cell carcinoma, and provide some prevention measures you can apply when heading out on that gorgeous Summer’s Day.
Skin Cancer is the most common cancer to afflict Kiwis. Over 80,000 people are diagnosed with this disease each year, with around 500 people succumbing to this disease. Of these, over 300 are deaths from melanoma with the remaining from other types of skin cancers.
Basal cell carcinoma: The most common type of skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, affecting about 80% of all skin cancers. It arises from the basal cells, which are the round-shaped cells found in the deepest layer of your skin, the epidermis.
Think of your skin like a multi-layered cake. The basal cells are like the cake base, providing support and structure. When these cells start to grow abnormally and uncontrollably, they form BCC.
Where does BCC show up?
BCC most often develops on areas that receive the most sun exposure, like the head and neck. However, it can appear anywhere on the skin, including your torso, arms, and legs.
What causes BCC?
The main culprit behind BCC is sun exposure. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun damage the DNA in your skin cells, which can lead to uncontrolled growth and the formation of BCC.
What does BCC look like?
BCC can have various appearances, but some common signs include:
- A pearly or waxy bump with a rolled edge and a central indentation.
- A red, scaly patch that bleeds or crusts.
- An open sore that doesn’t heal.
- A scar-like area that is flat and white, yellow, or waxy.
The good news?
BCC is usually slow-growing and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. If caught and treated early, it is highly curable.
Here are some tips for preventing BCC:
- Seek shade, especially during peak sun hours (10 am to 4 pm).
- Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves and pants.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin.
- Do regular skin checks and report any changes to your doctor.
By being sun smart and keeping an eye on your skin, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing BCC.
Remember, early detection is key! If you notice any suspicious changes on your skin, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Photo by Kindel Media