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Public urged to check for cancer

The public are being reminded to get their skin checked during their annual medical examinations and to conduct regular mole checks.

With skin cancer incidences still rising globally, Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre SunSmart co-ordinator Azuree Williams warned that “everyone is susceptible”.

“One really bad sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chances of being diagnosed when you are older,” said Ms Williams, who was speaking to The Royal Gazette as May marks Melanoma Awareness Month.

Noting that early detection is key when it comes to treatment, she added: “Make sure you are asking your doctor to give you a skin check every year when you do your annual exam.

“We also recommend that every month you do a self-check. You're doing a body mole check. You're checking to see if there are any new spots, any spots that have changed size, shape or colour.

“If you have any of these, then we recommend that you go to your doctor to get it checked.”

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with rates of melanoma increasing worldwide despite efforts to address risk factors and intentional tanning behaviours.

According to Ms Williams, Bermuda used to have a 12 per cent higher skin cancer rate than the US but she added that current trends are difficult to pinpoint because not all cases are reported.

Statistics from the Bermuda National Tumour Registry showed that there were 26 melanoma skin cancer cases recorded in 2015 and a further 73 cases were non-melanoma skin cancers.

“This is just an inkling of what's really going on,” Ms Williams said. “We need more accurate reporting in order to give a more accurate reading on that. Australia has the highest rates. We're not there.”

Although skin cancer is often considered to be a young person's disease because it is most common in people aged 20 to 29, Ms Williams said cases are recorded in Bermuda across all age groups.

“The only increases we have seen have been more towards the seniors. The highest number of diagnoses was in the age bracket of 70 to 79.”

Melanoma is considered to be the most dangerous skin cancer although it is less common than non-melanoma skin cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, it accounts for about 1 per cent of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

Ms Williams said the main risk factors include skin type, family history, a previous cancer diagnosis, a weakened immune system, poor diet and lack of exercise.

While lighter skin means higher risk, she emphasised that “cancer is colour-blind — everyone is susceptible”.

Ms Williams outlined the following five simple steps to be “sunsmart”:

1. Slip on protective clothing: Wear loose clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.

2. Slop on SPF 30 sunscreen: Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside. Don't forget to apply on your neck and behind your ears.

3. Slap on a broad brimmed hat: Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your ears, eyes, face and back of the neck.

4. Seek shade anywhere: Limit your time in the midday sun between 10am and 4pm. Remember the shadow rule: watch your shadow . . . no shadow, seek shade!

5. Slide on wrap-around sunglasses: Wear sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection to protect your eyes.

Azuree Williams

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Published May 11, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 11, 2017 at 8:18 am)

Public urged to check for cancer

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