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Sun – The Equal Opportunity Destroyer

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Summertime is such a glorious time of the year. We wait all year to bask in the sun. Some sun exposure can help lift mood and boost our vitamin D levels. Too much sun can put us at risk for skin cancer.

One of the myths around sun and skin cancer is that people who have a darker complexion have natural protection from skin cancer. The substance in the skin that gives us colour is called melanin. Melanin affords some protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light. However, melanin does not provide full protection against these harmful rays.

Genetics also plays a role in the genesis of skin cancer. Certain skin cancers such as basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer occur at higher rates in some ethnicities such as Latinos and Asians. Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is a form of skin cancer that occurs more frequently in people of colour. Bob Marley died of this form of melanoma at the age of 36. ALM presents as a dark spot on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

The following steps can help to prevent skin cancer or to detect it early:

1. Use sunscreen. For a tutorial on skin protection, see this locally produced video by Dr. Mario Elia: youtube.com/watch?v=GKe-6ipbWxc.

2. Wear UV protected clothing and UV protected sunglasses.

3. Seek shade and avoid midday exposure.

4. Be vigilant and examine moles and skin lesions using the ABCDs of skin surveillance.

Much of the damage that is done to our skin is done at an early age. Protect children from the sun as well. Infants can not use sunscreen until the age of six months so a UV protector over a stroller can help protect them.

Enjoy summer but not at the cost of your health. Stay protected!

Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and grandmother of one lovely princess! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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