This May, in recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness month and VOYA’s recent ‘Wellness for Cancer’ accreditation, VOYA presents everything you need to know about the disease, including prevention and detection tips.
Ireland and Skin Cancer
We might joke that Ireland is a country that gets very little sun, but did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in Ireland? More than 10,000 new cases are diagnosed in Ireland each year and most of these are caused my harmful UV rays from the sun.
Some countries enjoy sun all year round meaning that skin cancer poses an even greater threat in these locations. In Ireland, April to September is the peak season in which UV damage to our skin as a result of sun exposure can occur.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are two main types of skin cancer. These are:
Non-melanoma skin cancer
These are the most common types of skin cancer and include terms you may have heard before such as ‘basal cell’ and ‘squamous cell’ carcinomas. These usually develop in areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun.
Melanoma skin cancer
Melanoma is a cancer of the cells that make melanin, the melanocytes. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its colour. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer but if spotted early, it is very treatable. If not, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious medical issues.
The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet light (UV) radiation from sunlight. There are two types of UV light that reach the Earth: UVA and UVB. Both of these can be harmful to humans. Skin cancer may develop in a person because of decades-long exposure to the sun without adequate protection.
When it comes to skin cancer, the best defence is a good offence. By turning the following tips into lifelong habits, you can help reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.
This one nearly goes without saying, but if you are going to be out and about in the sun it’s important to wear a high factor sunscreen. Aim for a sunscreen that has an (Sun Protection Factor) SPF factor of 15 or higher that indicates UVA protection on the bottle.
It’s important to apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out and top it up every two hours after that.
Avoid Peak Sun Time
It’s important to resist the urge to sunbathe between the hours of 11am – 3pm on hot days with little cloud cover. If you are likely to be exposed to the sun during this time, make sure your skin is covered with suitable clothing and wear a hat that can cover your neck and face.
Avoid Tanning Beds
The concentrated UV rays emitted from sunbeds are extremely dangerous to our skin. According to the World Health Organisation, just one sunbed session can increase your risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer by sixty seven percent and basal cell skin cancer by twenty nine percent.
Get to know your body and check for any new features on the surface of your skin regularly. The following symptoms could indicate skin cancer, but not all of them may appear at the same time:
- A small lump (may be tender to the touch)
- Flat, red spot
- Firm, red lump
- An ulcer that will not heal
- A lump with a scaly or horny top
- Rough, scaly patches
- A new or changing mole
Non-melanoma can often appear as one of the following:
- A new growth or sore that does not heal in a few weeks
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab or bleed
- A skin ulcer not explained by other causes
Even if you are not prone to lounging around in the sun, you could be part of a group of people that are of higher risk of developing skin cancer. People with the following traits need to be extra vigilant when it comes to preventing skin cancer.
- Pale or freckled skin that does not tan or burns before it tans
- Naturally red or fair hair
- Blue, green or grey eyes
- A large number of moles (50 or more)
- A history of sunburn
- Already had skin cancer
- A close family member who has or had skin cancer
- Ever used a sunbed
Treatment of Skin Cancer
For those that do develop skin cancer in their lifetime there are a number of treatments available that your consultant or GP can put your forward for.
Surgery is the most common way of treating skin cancer, while radiotherapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, topical treatments, and photodynamic therapy can also be effective.
As the Irish Cancer Society explains, once your treatment is over, your doctor will want to see you for regular check-ups. This is known as follow-up. At first these check-ups will be every 3 to 6 months and then less often. For patients with melanoma the follow-up will last at least 5 years.
VOYA: Wellness for Cancer
Having worked closely with Wellness for Cancer over the last few months, each trainer within the VOYA team has now completed their ‘Train the Trainer’ programme which has equipped them with the knowledge, practical experience and confidence needed to perform safe treatments.
To attain this specialist accreditation, spas must first understand the theory and foundations behind cancer. Just as medical specialists treat it as a chronic disease focussing on the physical act of improving health, spa professionals are taught how to bring compassion, sensitivity and mindfulness into the treatment room.
Training covers a broad spectrum, including client comfort, the benefits of touch and how best to bring these elements together in a calming manner.
As of June 2016, the Wellness for Cancer and VOYA protocol will be in place and all VOYA accounts will be encouraged to join and train their individual spa therapists.
Click to learn more about Wellness for Cancer.
Detection tips and treatment information in this article come from www.cancer.ie.