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Protect Your Skin – and Save Your Life



17 March 2010  


Protect Your Skin – and Save Your Life


On Wednesday 24 March 2010, the South African Melanoma Advisory Board, sponsored by Vichy Laboratoires, is visiting the Stormers at the team's High-Performance Centre in Bellville to conduct skin screening tests.


The Stormers agreed to participate in the tests to help raise awareness of the dangers of skin cancer. Despite continuous reports of global warming, changes in the ozone layer and the intensity of the sun's UV rays, many South Africans seem to think they are invincible when it comes to spending time in the sun.


The voluntary testing is aimed at checking the players for any forms of skin cancer and finding out how many players have had skin cancers, as these sports icons spend many hours in the sun.


In the Cape Town area, 45 people get diagnosed with malignant melanoma every month. If one would extrapolate this to a per capita incidence it could be as high as 68 per 100 000/higher than in Australia


Now, high-profile sportspeople are coming forward to endorse protective clothing as well as regular consistent use of sunscreen, hoping that by showing the way they will be able to persuade South Africans to take adequate precautions.


Dr Dagmar Whitaker, the president of The South African Melanoma Advisory Board, says that people can continue to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle and still protect themselves from contracting skin cancer.


“We just need to adapt our behaviour. It's about enjoying the sun, but doing so responsibly. We are hoping that with the help of sportspeople like the Stormers, we will be able to show people how to be ‘sun safe',” she says. “How each person does that depends on their skin type and the activities in which they participate. By combining the use of sunscreen with protective clothing and being aware of the time spent outdoors, people can ensure that they never burn – and that is the key to avoiding skin cancer. It is possible to acquire a tan gradually with the use of sunscreen, and that's fine, but tanning by burning the skin is highly dangerous.”


The South African Melanoma Advisory Board carried out a similar exercise with the Cape Cobras last week, and plans to roll the campaign out to other teams in provinces across the country.

Springbok rugby player Rob Louw, who played 19 tests for South Africa between 1980 and 1984, has become a passionate spokesperson for sun protection since undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of melanoma late last year.


“Like many other South Africans, I thought I was bullet-proof and that skin cancer would never happen to me,” he says. “Now, I still live an active outdoor life, but I apply Factor 50 sunscreen every morning, and wear a hat and sunglasses whenever possible. Parents really need to become aware of the dangers, because much of the damage to our skins tends to happen at school level, when children participate in outdoors' activities without protection.”


The South African Melanoma Advisory Board is a multi-disciplinary forum with representation from all the disciplines involved in managing a malignant melanoma – dermatologists, oncologists, pathologists and plastic surgeons. The Board has published guidelines on how to recognise and treat melanomas, and also runs an ongoing awareness campaign to educate members of the medical profession as well as the general public on the prevention of skin cancer.


Dr Whitaker points out that one of the reasons why the awareness campaign is so important is that the consequences of sunburn are not immediate; there is typically a long delay between the damage being done and the skin cancer appearing. Sun protection is therefore particularly important and people should seek professional advice to choose the right sunscreen that suits their skin type and lifestyle.



Enquiries : Dr Dagmar Whitaker


South African Melanoma Advisory Board


Submitted by: Debra de Wet /Bontle Tsikwe

Redline – a division of Draftfcb

(011) 566-6000


Reference: pr 02 – Protect Your Skin – and Save Your Life – Vodacom Stormers