Skin cancer rises among black South Africans

Time of article published Feb 19, 2008

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By Courtney Brooks

Skin cancer was on the increase in South Africa owing to changes in the environment, such as the hole in the ozone layer and global warming, the Cancer Association of South Africa said.

Spokesperson Martha Molete said 20 000 cases had been diagnosed and that 700 people died annually in South Africa from skin cancer. The country has the second-highest rate of skin cancer in the world.

It often went undetected longer in black South Africans and was most common on the palms of hands, soles of the feet, back of the neck, lips, or on a scar in blacks, Molete said.

According to the association, people should protect themselves with a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and avoid sunlight between 10am and 3pm.

The incidence of skin cancer in albino blacks was almost 100 percent, said Werner Sinclair, a professor and the head of the department of dermatology at University of the Free State.

He said the number of black South Africans with Kaposi sarcoma, a skin cancer caused by HIV, was also on the increase. It was characterised by purple lesions surrounded by swelling. Treatment for HIV could sometimes shrink the lesions.

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