Dec 2021 Edition

Be sun smart this summer

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

Even dark-skinned people can get skin cancer, so it is wise to follow basic safety measures when outdoors this summer. Image:

Summer is here and that means South Africans need to protect their skin from the harmful effects of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is a risk factor for skin cancer.

Despite popular belief, even those with darker skin can get skin cancer, although they are generally less susceptible because their skin contains more natural melanin, which protects against sun damage.

“The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented by respecting the sun. At least 80% of sun-induced skin damage occurs before the age of 18 and only manifests later in life,” says Lucy Balona, Head of Marketing and Communication at the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa).

She says it is imperative to take particular care of children in the sun, whether it is at the pool, on the beach, at play, or at school.

Babies younger than one should never be exposed to direct sunlight, says Balona.

“People with fair skin, especially those with red hair, moles or skin spots, as well as people with a personal or family history of skin cancer, or who play sport outdoors, work in the sun or spend a lot of time driving, are considered high risk."

Basic safety practices

Balona has provided these sun-smart tips:

  • Use sunscreen – The use of sunscreen is not a licence to ‘bare all’ in the sun, however. Avoid direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s rays are most dangerous.
  • Keep babies out of direct sunlight – Their skin contains too little melanin and as such, cannot provide enough protection from the sun.
  • Wear sunglasses and a sun hat – This helps block UV radiation around the face, eyes and neck.
  • Hydrate – Drink water throughout the day and stay hydrated.  

For more information on being sun smart, visit the website, call 0800 22 6622, WhatsApp 071 867 3530 (isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati, Sesotho and Setswana), or 072 197 9305 (English and Afrikaans), or email

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