Spain has seen the number of skin cancer cases multiply by 15 in the past 50 years, with experts putting it down to "low awareness of the disease and little prevention when exposed to the sun".
Each year in Spain 2,000 new patients are diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, which results in around 700 deaths. In the European Union, there are a staggering 36,000 new cases diagnosed each year and 12,000 deaths.
Monday, June 13, was Skin Cancer Prevention Day and the dermatology department of the Clinical Hospital in Malaga joined in a number of initiatives in which professionals, representatives of associations, patients and their relatives participated.
These initiatives were attended by Carlos Bautista, the Andalucian Health and Families delegate and included medical and nursing staff from the dermatology unit, alongside the dermatoscopy team, carrying out tests on people who showed an interest in the subject.
Non-invasive tests were performed to diagnose skin lesions, specially pigmented ones, a process that is usually conducted in the consultations of this unit.
Experts answered questions and leaflets were handed out that included instructions on how to prevent skin cancers, along with sun protection products.
Enrique Herrera, a dermatologist, and head of the department at Virgen de la Victoria University Hospital facility explained that “skin cancer is a malignant disease caused by the uncontrolled division and growth of the cells that form it, with the ability to invade surrounding healthy tissues and structures, and in some cases, to other distant organs”.
Adding that “Although talking about skin cancer is generalised, there are several types among which melanomas and non-melanoma skin carcinomas such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma clearly stand out.”
He explained that in both types “the main risk factor involved in their appearance is solar radiation, especially type B (UVB), and type A (UVA).
“In the skin, these radiations are capable of producing mutations in the genetic material (DNA) of the cells that make up the epidermis, and prevent its repair, thus initiating the process of carcinogenesis or the formation of a cancer.”
With the hot weather now here in Spain, swimming pools, beaches and open spaces will be filled with people sunbathing and picnicking and even though the Spanish have started to become more aware of the importance of using sun protection, the cases of skin cancer continue to rise.
The experts pointed out that if diagnosed, the prognosis is generally very good, with most people cured of the disease. The exception is in cases of melanoma, where the prognosis isn’t as good, due to the fact that this type of skin tumour frequently metastasizes or spreads to other areas of the body.
Nine out of ten cases of irregular development of melanoma are in fact due to sun exposure, with only 10 per cent due to genetics.
Bautista explained that of course prevention is still the best way to avoid skin tumours. But if detected early enough, up to 95 per cent of cases can be cured. For that reason, it is important to carry out periodic checks to detect any skin alterations.
To avoid any form of skin cancer, it is paramount that sunscreen is applied regularly when sunbathing and tanning sessions with UVA lamps should be avoided.
It is also important to remember that with any exposure to the outdoors it is vital to use sun protection, which includes outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, playing sports etc.
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