Skin and Sun Protection for a Muslimah
On a recent beach holiday, I was practically slathering my children with sunblock, whereupon my sister-in-law commented, “We are Malays, we are meant to be dark skinned.” I had to explain that its about cancer prevention.
While we need the sun for Vitamin D and healthy bones, too much sun exposure can increase our risk of melanoma ( skin cancer). Skin sensitivity to sunlight varies depending on skin type.
Type1: Never tans, freckles, red hair, blue eyes
Type2: Tans with difficulty, less freckled
Type3: Tans easily, dark hair,brown eyes
Type4: Always tans, Mediterranean skin
Type 5: Brown skin ( eg, Indian)
Type 6: Black skin( eg, African)
Although those with skin type 1 do not tan easily, they do, however, burn very easily in the sun and are susceptible to skin cancer, whereas those with skin type 6 very rarely develop skin cancer.
There are 3 types of ultraviolet radiation- the short wavelength ultraviolet C – UVC – (100-280nm), ultraviolet B – UVB – (290-320nm) and the long wavelength ultraviolet A – UVA – (320-400nm). UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer and doesnt penetrate the atmosphere. UVB is very important in both sunburn and in the development of skin cancer. UVA is thought to be of increasing importance in development of skin cancer, and in causing tanning but not sunburn. It is also important to people with photosensitivity.
The effects of UV radiation may be classified as short term( sunburn, photosensitivity) or long term( skin cancer, wrinkling,solar keratoses, solar elastosis, seborrhoeic warts).
Prevention of Sun Damage & Skin Cancer
Prevention of sun damage and skin cancer will depend on reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This can be achieved in a number of ways.
-Covering the skin with clothes. It must be remembered, however, that light clothes such as shirts or blouses may only have limited sun protection. Clothing that is too dark or that includes too many layers should be avoided because will not be able to absorb vitamin D. So dress to protect modesty and do not over do it. A wide brimmed hat is essential for protecting the face and neck.
-Use sunscreen everyday, in every weather, anywhere in the world. Broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF factor of 30 should be used to ensure protection from both UVA & UVB radiation. Apply at least 15 mins before going out and reapply after 2 hours when swimming or sweating.
– Avoid exposure to midday sun( 10 am to 2pm), particularly in tropical or subtropical latitudes. At this time of the day the sunlight passes vertically through the atmosphere and there is a filtering of dangerous ultraviolet light.
– Use sunglasses with UV protective lenses.
– Choose cosmetics, contact lenses with UV protection.
Forms of Skin Cancer
There are 3 forms of skin cancer caused by ultraviolet light:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
- and malignant melanoma
Most importantly, please note that most moles are entirely harmless. However, if you do note any changes in the mole ( such as size or shape or bleeding) then please do consult your health practitioner.