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Dr Koh Hong Yi, ​Consultant, Dermatology Unit, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a memb​​​​​​er of the SingHealth group shares on who are at higher risks and pr​​evention tips.

RISK FACTORS FOR SKIN CANCER

While excessive exposure to the sun is the main cause of skin cancer, there are many factors that can increase your risk of getting this disease. These factors include:

  • Fair or light skin colour
  • Skin with a history of sunburn
  • Skin prone to moles
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Long-term immunosuppressive medication
  • Occupational exposure to ionizing radiation (e.g. radiology personnel, airline crews)
  • Prolonged exposure to toxic substances, such as pesticides and tar
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from commercial tanning beds and sunlamps

“Fair-skinned people have less of the pigment melanin which protects against ultraviolet radiation, which is why they are at higher risk,” says Dr Koh. “But that doesn’t mean dark-skinned people can’t get skin cancer.” says Dr Koh.​

Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is usually diagnosed after a clinical examination and a biopsy. A skin biopsy involves removing part of the growth or the entire growth, for examination under a microscope.

A skin biopsy is a simple procedure that is carried out under local anaesthesia. Depending on the type of cancer, other tests such as a lymph node biopsy, blood test and imaging tests may be required to determine the extent and stage of the cancer. The treatment of skin cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer.

“In the case of low-risk, non-melanoma skin cancer, a biopsy may serve to remove the entire lesion and no further treatment will be required once the lab confirms that the surgical margins are free of cancer cells,” says Dr Koh​

TIPS TO PREVENT SKIN CANCER

  1. Limit your exposure to sunlight, particularly between 10am and 4pm.
  2. Wear protective clothing, such as broad-rimmed hats and sunglasses.
  3. Use a sun umbrella.​
  4. Liberally apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF factor of 30.
  5. Avoid commercial tanning beds and sunlamps.
  6. Regularly examine yourself for any unusual growths, sores, lesions, or an existing mole that has changed in appearance.

Read about skin cance​r treatment in the next page.

Ref: S13