Smart habits, appropriate for age, reduce skin cancer risk
Skin cancer awareness months takes place from December 1 to the January 31, to encourage people to be skin smart given the high rate of skin cancer in South Africa.
Dr Marion Morkel, chief medical officer at Sanlam, says while you should be skin smart when it comes to sun exposure, moderate sun exposure elevates your moods, improves your sleep, promotes bone growth and helps strengthen your immune system, so the sun should not be avoided completely.
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), South Africa is one of the highest skin cancer rates globally.
Jow much sun is too much and what can you do to safeguard yourself from skin cancer? Practising skin smart habits from an early age can help to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.
Dr Morkel says the risk increases with age and with years of exposure to the sun, which is why it is important to not only adopt skin smart habits but also ensure that you have the right cover should you be diagnosed with skin cancer and need treatment.
Below, Morkel discusses skin smart habits to adopt from all ages to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer:
Children: Age 2–12
Children watch your every move, so it is important to teach them healthy skin habits from an early age, says Morkel.
These include washing your face every morning and every evening and wearing a protective sunscreen with a good SPF (Sun Protector Factor).
Teach your kids to always cover up by wearing a hat, sunglasses and UV protection and protective clothing and to seek shade whenever possible during the hot summer days, avoiding exposure completely when the sun is at its harshest between 10am and 4pm.
Teens: Age 13–18
As your teenager embarks on the puberty phase which includes acne, it is important to get the right products to not only treat these complaints but also help them avoid sun damage.
They should be taught to cleanse carefully, wash off make-up before bed and use a good sunblock which will also prevent acne breakouts from turning dark.
Teenagers are strongly recommended to avoid using tanning beds as they can set you up for earlier wrinkles and increased skin cancer risk.
In your 20s – 30s
In your 20’s and 30’s, the production of collagen in your body starts to decline which leads to thinner skin.
By now, Morkel says you should start to develop a skincare routine which includes washing your face, wearing sunscreen every day as well as using an antioxidant serum to protect your skin from pollution and sun damage.
In your 40s – 50s
When you reach your 40’s, you really start to see changes in the firmness of your skin, explains Morkel.
Due to the loss of elasticity and volume as well as wrinkles and sun damage, you may need to include retinoid cream and peptides to your skin routine.
In addition to anti-ageing benefits, retinoid has shown to be effective in reversing precancerous skin damage.
Peptides which can be contained in moisturisers or serums also assist in boosting collagen production.
In your 60s and beyond
It’s never too late to start anti-ageing treatments.
A lack of hydration is amongst the main skincare concerns in your 60s.
Morkel recommends having a very simple, hydrating, and gentle skincare routine.
“While not everyone would have developed good sun skin smart habits at an early age, it's never too late to start.
“Avoiding sun exposure, caring for your skin, and educating yourself about what your skin needs is the best you can do to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer,” concludes Morkel.