The power of self-examination and early skin cancer detection - FOCP

The power of self-examination and early skin cancer detection

  • By Community Engagement
  • June 10, 2024
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The power of self-examination and early skin cancer detection
In the spirit of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, it’s imperative to pause and reflect on the importance of protecting our skin and detecting potential cancers early. Skin cancer is the most common cancer type worldwide, with non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), being the most frequently diagnosed. Across the globe, millions of people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer each year, a staggering statistic that highlights the need for increased awareness and preventive measures.

Exposure to ultraviolet UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or artificial sources like sunbeds, is the primary driver behind the development of skin cancer. Additionally, individuals with fair skin, genetic disorders depleting skin pigment, a family history of skin cancer, or those who received severe sunburns early in life, are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The most common symptom of skin cancer is the formation of growths on the skin’s surface that can often be mistaken for moles.

The importance of early detection
One of the most significant factors in successful skin cancer treatment is early detection, and when caught in its earliest stages, most forms of skin cancer have a 100 percent survival rate, and for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, survival rate is still over 99 percent. This serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of regular skin checks and self-examinations, and by familiarising ourselves with the signs and symptoms of skin cancer, we can take proactive steps to catch any potential issues before they have a chance to progress.

Championing the cause
Cancer organisations and foundations play a major role in combating skin cancer by raising awareness about the disease and educating the public. These entities, such as Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), one of the most prominent cancer organisations in the region, are dedicated to promoting early detection and prevention initiatives to reduce the impact of cancer on individuals and communities. Through awareness campaigns, free mobile cancer screenings, public education initiatives, and fundraising efforts, these organisations strive to reach a broader audience and empower individuals to prioritise their health, thus reducing the prevalence and impact of cancer through early detection.

Raising awareness and educating members of society
Studies have revealed that maintenance staff, cleaning workers, and gardeners, who often spend extended periods to the sun, are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, so it’s important to raise awareness and educate these members of society about preventative measures that can be taken.

Stemming from the importance of raising awareness, FOCP launched a skin health initiative in collaboration with Dubai Municipality to raise workers’ awareness of preventive measures. Through a series of educational sessions starting in May and continuing through August, they aim to educate workers about the primary signs of skin cancer and provide them with preventive measures to protect their skin health.

In support of the cause, NAOS Care provided free samples of their Bioderma sunblock (SPF 50+) to the participants during the first session on May 22nd in recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and this collaborative effort hopes to reach as many at-risk workers as possible through the next couple of months.

Conducting a self-examination
To conduct a thorough self-exam, find a well-lit room and a full-length mirror to examine your entire body, including hard-to-see areas like the back and scalp using a hand mirror. If you notice any concerning changes or have persistent skin issues, seek prompt evaluation from a dermatologist.

The “ABCDEs” of melanoma can serve as a combative tool in identifying potential signs of this serious skin cancer. Each letter represents a key characteristic to watch for when examining moles or skin lesions. “A for Asymmetry,” where one half of the spot differs from the other; “B for Border,” indicating irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined edges; “C for Colour,” highlighting variations in colour within the spot, such as shades of tan, brown, black, or areas of white, red, or blue; “D for Diameter,” noting that melanomas are often larger than 6 millimetres but can be smaller, especially with early detection; and “E for Evolution,” emphasising any changes in size, shape, or colour of the spot over time.

In addition to regular skin checks, there are several preventive measures we can take to reduce our risk of developing skin cancer. Wearing protective clothing, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and using broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher are all effective ways to shield our skin from harmful UV rays. By incorporating these habits into our daily routines, we can enjoy the outdoors while prioritising our skin’s health.

Commenting on the initiative, Aisha Al Mulla, Director of FOCP stated, “At Friends of Cancer Patients, we believe that every individual deserves access to the knowledge and resources necessary to protect their health. Through our skin cancer initiative in collaboration with Dubai Municipality, we aim to empower those most at risk, such as outdoor workers, with the tools and awareness to detect skin cancer early and prevent its devastating effects. By working together as a community, we can create a future where skin cancer has less chance of developing in those who serve our society. Our mission is to combat all types of cancer through early detection and awareness, and we will remain steadfast in our resolve.”

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