We don’t usually think of our skin as an organ, but that is precisely what it is. Also, interestingly your skin is your body’s largest organ. So, you need to take care of it! The skin is a highly complex organ, but its six main functions include protection, absorption, excretion, secretion, regulation, and sensation. The skin is our first line of defence against toxins, radiation, and pollutants. The skin is also vulnerable, and skin cancer can develop. Cancer is the phenomenon of cells in the body beginning to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancerous and then spread to other areas. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Namibia and is most prominent among light-skinned individuals. According to officials, Namibians are not taking the necessary precautions (see below) to prevent damage from the sun and skin cancer. Namibia has a subtropical desert climate characterized by significant differences in day and night temperatures, low rainfall, and overall low humidity.
It can be hypothesized that because of Namibia’s warm weather, the inhabitants are more prone to being exposed to the sun (wearing loose clothing and no hats, etc.). This may explain the high level of skin cancer. This being said, it is essential that you can get sunburn in both sunny and cloudy weather. Even being around snow or large bodies of water can cause sunburn as it reflects the sun.
The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma. It is the most feared because it is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not caught early and treated. Luckily it is less common than some other types of skin cancer. Melanoma develops when melanocytes—the cells that give skin its tan or brown colour start to grow out of control. Because of its location, the tumours are usually easy to spot—brown to black. However, it is important to note that they can also be pink and even white.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2021 are:
- About 106,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 62,260 in men and 43,850 in women).
- About 7,180 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 4,600 men and 2,580 women).
- Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites.
- Melanoma is more common in men overall, but before age 50, the rates are higher in women than in men.
- The risk of melanoma increases as people age. The average age of people when it is diagnosed is 65.
How to take care of your skin*:
There are many things you can do to look after your skin—including staying hydrated. However, for the best protection, use all five SunSmart steps:
Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Examples are collared shirts with long sleeves.
Slop on SPF 30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. Apply 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours and especially after being in water or sweating.
Slap on a hat. Or a cap with flaps. Most people burn on their faces and necks.
Seek out shade. Take shelter under a leafy tree or porch etc. Try to plan your activities for early or later in the day when the sun’s UV levels are lower.
Slide on some sunglasses. Choose the type that is close-fitting and wrap-around. Check the label to ensure that the glasses have a sun protection rating, as not all glasses have it.