May is when the world focuses on skin cancer awareness.
Winter is hardly the time, you’d think, to worry about sunburn and melanoma. Well read on: because this could change – and save – your life.
It’s worth remembering for a start, that New Zealand’s skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world. If you’re not scared of the winter sun, you should at least be wary.
It’s not just our clear air. With less ozone above us and less haze and humidity in the atmosphere than more temperate countries, we certainly are exposed to more harmful UV rays than many. And UV, as we’ve discussed in an earlier blog post, is not our friend.
Solar radiation in the UV spectrum essentially smashes into unprotected human skin like subatomic missiles – and while it may not be instantly deadly, it can damage DNA to the point that it turns rogue. And rogue DNA leads to lesions, carcinomas, and cancers.
It’s a reality, too, that the whiter you are, the more at risk. Melanin is the skin’s natural protective shield against UV radiation, and those with darker skin have less to worry about.
Unfortunately, We Kiwis Love Our Sun
It’s a she’ll be right thing, it’s also a gumboots-and-singlet thing. As Kiwis we have a gung-ho and very laid back attitude to being outdoors. We consider it one of the perks of living in Godzone, and we venture outside without hesitation, even under the hottest of suns.
Unfortunately for us, the NZ sun often doesn’t feel hot. We’re blessed with cool breezes and a lower air temperature that makes sunshine feel warm and pleasant – a very dangerous and deceiving impression when you consider the harm UV is doing.
In winter, as temperatures drop and the sun sets earlier, it gets even more tempting to spend time under the sun. And, to an extent, the damaging effects of solar radiation are slightly less because the winter sunlight is not as concentrated. But UV is UV, and damage is damage – and potential cancer.
The Skifield Sunburn Racoon
Every year many of us head for the ski slopes. Noob or pro, we love to get active and show off our skills (or lack.) It’s evident to anyone who heads up the mountain on a sunny winter’s day that the sun reflecting on snow creates an uncomfortable glare – and sunglasses are mandatory on any ski trip.
What many of us generally don’t factor in, is that reflected sunlight includes the UV. A sunlit skifield can increase the amount of solar radiation hitting our skin significantly, as many returning from a skiing weekend with “racoon eyes” – a sunburnt face and white rings around the eyes where the goggles gave protection – will tell you.
Even if you’re not the skifield type, milder winter days can see us outside, uncovered and unprotected under the sun. As Kiwis, we love to have our winter clean-up in the garden and many hours can be spent on the weekends.
Sunburn, sun damage, and the long term effects including melanomas and skin cancers, can result even from exposure to winter sun.
See Something? Say Something.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month around the world. In the Northern hemisphere, it’s the start of the warmer, sunnier months, so a timely reminder to be aware.
In New Zealand, it’s a reminder that we can’t get complacent. Even in winter, slop sunscreen on those exposed places. Slap on a hat if you’re working outdoors for a few hours. And don’t forget to keep an eye on any suspicious lesions, moles, or spots – anything new, anything changing, anything asymmetrical or notably different from other moles on your body.
Look out for any mole, spot or freckle that:
- is new or changing
- does not heal
- looks different from others around it
- has changed in size, thickness, shape, colour
- has started to bleed.
Mole Mapping To Beat Skin Cancer
When detected early, skin cancer, including melanoma, is highly treatable. While self-checks are important, if you are a lighter skin type, or over 40, we strongly recommend a regular mole map at NZ Skin Health.
High tech imaging and mapping software mean that even tiny changes can be detected and treated, minimising the risk of further problems. We also make it easier to afford, with membership plans that let you make small easy payments for regular checks, kind of like a very insurance plan.
At NZ Skin Health we are proud of our excellent record of early detection and successful treatment.
Give us a call and book your skin check: Call now 09 533 41 41 or contact us today.