UAE | Health

Any suntan raises risk of skin cancer

Sun-worshippers in the UAE are unlikely to skip the beach anytime soon despite new research that found the same amount of ultraviolet light exposure leads to a tan and cancer.

  • By Mahmood Saberi, Senior Reporter and Nina Muslim, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 23:42 September 19, 2008
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit:

Dubai: Sun-worshippers in the UAE are unlikely to skip the beach anytime soon despite new research that found the same amount of ultraviolet light exposure leads to a tan and cancer.

While some skin experts have maintained that avoiding sunburn is crucial, researchers in the US and UK have concluded that any tan is risky, whether from sunshine or a sunbed. The scientists said there was solid evidence that tanning and cancer both start with DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

But residents who admitted to being partial to getting a tan told Gulf News they were "not fussed" about the findings. Dubai-based Bri-tish executive George Flint said he would continue going to the beach. "I'm not much of a tanner and I'm definitely not faithful when it comes to using sunscreen," he told Gulf News.

The suntan research is published in a series of papers in Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research. "UVR exposure represents one of the most avoidable causes of cancer risk and mortality in man," Dr David E. Fisher and colleagues of the Massa-chusetts General Hospital wrote in one of the papers.

"The role of UV [in skin cancer] is incontrovertible and efforts to confuse the public ... for purposes of economic gain by the indoor tanning industry, should be vigorously combated for the public health," he wrote.

Dr Ekramullah Al Nasir, director of Dermacare Skin Centre in Dubai, advised Dubai residents to avoid going to the beach between 10am and 4pm. "There are a number of cases of people who use skin lotions but get cancer," he told Gulf News from Paris, where he is attending a congress on skin diseases. "We are asking [at the conference] that no licence should be issued to tanning salons in Europe," he said. Dr Gopal Kaul of the Kaul Clinic in Dubai, however, stressed that genetics also plays a key role in skin cancer. "Millions of people sunbathe without any side effects," he said.

Dr Priyadarshan of Al Rafa Clinic in Jebel Ali told Gulf News that people who are melanin deficient are more prone to skin cancer as are people with white skin.

Prevention: Melanoma and non-melanoma

There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma (or malignant melanoma) and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancers are usually slow growing and result from prolonged sunlight exposure over many years.

Melanoma skin cancer is usually pigmented or coloured and is more dangerous. The main cause is exposure to short periods of intense sunlight and it can develop anywhere on the body.

You can protect yourself from the sun's harmful effects and prevent skin cancer with some simple steps:

  • 1 Avoid spending too much time in the sun. Stick to the shade between 11am and 3 pm.
  • 2 Cover up with clothes and sunglasses as much as possible.
  • 3 Apply a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF15) regularly.
  • 4 Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating.
  • 5 Avoid using sun lamps or sunbeds.
  • 6 Most moles aren't cancerous, but watch out for moles that grow. Get them checked by a doctor.

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