Skin Cancer, Often Underestimated
Skin cancer strikes an estimated three million people a year worldwide making it the most common of all types of cancer. We know the main cause of most skin cancer cases and we know how to prevent the vast majority of them. Yet still millions of people across the globe are ignoring the warnings and deliberately putting themselves at risk of developing a disease which can both maim and kill its victims.
The difficulty in tackling many types of cancer lies in the fact that no-one knows the real cause – and that’s a major obstacle to prevention. Skin cancer is different. Over exposure to the sun causes most types of skin cancer (both melanoma and non-melanoma) so reducing that exposure and taking sensible precautions are obvious prevention measures.
Thanks to high profile public health campaigns in recent years, most people in the developed world are aware of the danger of damaging ultraviolet rays and know, at least to some degree, what they should be doing to protect themselves. So why do holidaymakers still flock in their droves to fry themselves on sun drenched beaches each year? And why do tens of millions of tanners across the globe expose themselves to the UV rays of artificial sun beds.
One simple answer could be that a tan is still perceived as sexy. A bronzed body has been the ultimate fashion accessory since Coco Chanel arrived back from the south of France with one in the 1920s. But in those days we didn’t know the dangers of stripping off intermittently in pursuit of a sun-kissed skin. Now we do.
Many stars of the pop world and silver screen still flaunt a tan as something highly desirable (whereas many dermatologists will tell you a tan is a sign of damaged skin). Sunscreen manufacturers assure us we’ll be protected from skin damage if we slap on their expensive high protection lotions (whereas studies have shown that many of these high factor lotions don’t live up to the claims of their makers). And many unscrupulous tanning salon owners promote their sun beds as an aid to good health (whereas some skin specialists want them outlawed claiming they cause skin cancer.)