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What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer globally [i]. Due to its location, South Africa has high solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR)[ii]. Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells, which is usually caused by damage to the skin cells, usually by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds. This causes the skin cells to multiply to form cancerous tumours rapidly. If left untreated, these cancerous tumours can spread to other body parts.

Types of Skin Cancers:


Melanomas are tumours arising from pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. They are noted to be the most dangerous form of skin cancer, accounting for 75% of all deaths associated with skin cancer[iii]. Melanomas show aggressive local growth and metastasis (spread to other organs). Melanomas typically present as deeply pigmented skin lesions that are new, changing in size, shape, or colour. Lesions are more common at body sites receiving intense UV exposure, such as the trunk in men and the legs and feet in women.

Non-Melanoma skin cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, making up 80% of non-melanoma type skin cancers. It is a type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells, which are the cells that produce new skin cells as the old ones die off. BCC most commonly occurs in areas exposed to sun exposure, i.e., the head and neck. Skin lesions may appear flat or slightly raised bumps which may be pink or white, with a waxy or pearly appearance or a flesh tone.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinomas are tumours arising from the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layers of the skin. This type of cancer is usually not life-threatening. However, it can be aggressive. New or enlarging lesions, often tender, itchy, easily bleeding, or non-healing wound, may represent lesions in squamous cell carcinoma.

Other skin cancers include Kaposi Sarcoma, Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma, and Actinic Keratosis

Skin cancer treatment depends on the lesion type, site, size and spread. Most lesions, if caught early, can be completely excised, and cured.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

  • Avoid direct sunlight between 10a and 4 pm and try to schedule outdoor activities for other times, even during winter and cloudy days.
  • Cover up in bright sunshine- wear dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and wear a broad-brimmed hat that provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor.
  • Always use sunscreen [vii] of at least SPF30 when outdoors. Apply sufficient sunblock, and don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours or more often if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Avoid tanning beds as the UV rays can increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • Check your skin regularly and report any changes to your doctor. Regularly examine your skin for new skin growths or patches and for any changes that may occur to existing moles and freckles.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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