By John Ensor •
Updated: 11 Oct 2023 • 16:07
Credit: Nikita Burdenkov/Shutterstock.com
For many Europeans, the allure of sunbathing fades quickly as they recognise the sun’s intensity, opting instead for the safety of the shade. But how often do we underestimate the sun’s power?
One of the major attractions of Spain whether as an expatriate or a holidaymaker is its guaranteed sunshine. However, a startling revelation by renowned skin cancer expert, Dr Amalia Gonzalez, has brought to light a concerning trend.
She states that nearly 90 per cent of Northern Europeans living in Marbella are walking around with basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma without knowing their potential dangers.
According to SkinCancer.org, Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 3.6 million cases are diagnosed each year. While these figures are alarming, it’s essential to note that BCCs, when detected early, are mostly curable.
These types of skin cancers, often overshadowed by the more infamous melanoma, are insidious in nature. They may appear harmless but can have severe consequences if left untreated.
One man related his experience which illustrates the need to be on guard: ‘Several years ago I went to Rio de Janeiro on business for a week and one day with nothing to do I spent four hours in the roof bar of the hotel.’
He went on to explain the seemingly innocuous nature of his actions: ‘There was no obvious direct sunlight and I was sitting under an umbrella,’ but he crucially added he had ‘used no sunblock.’
‘The next morning I got up and my face looked like the Shroud of Turin with the entire first layer of skin literally peeling off. When I returned to the UK a large wart-like growth appeared on my nose which had to be surgically removed,’ thankfully the analysis turned out to be benign.
BCC often arises due to DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure, either from the sun or indoor tanning. These carcinomas can manifest as open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or even scars. They might ooze, crust, itch, or bleed, primarily appearing in sun-exposed areas. In individuals with darker skin, approximately half of BCCs are pigmented.
While BCCs rarely spread beyond the original tumour site, they can grow, become disfiguring, and destroy skin, tissue, and bone. Dr Gonzalez emphasises that symptoms must never be ignored or treated at home. It’s a serious mistake to assume that it can be dealt with using home remedies or by merely scratching them off. Such actions can exacerbate the condition and lead to further complications.
It’s crucial for individuals, regardless of their sunbathing habits, to consult a dermatologist annually. Early detection can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes.
The man mentioned earlier provided EWN with a more up-to-date account of his experiences: ‘Just two weeks ago I had to visit a Dermatologist in Marbella who found a growth behind my right ear which she froze and it dropped off within days.
‘Again it was benign but there is no question that you need to take medical advice about any growth that suddenly appears as it could be dangerous.’
According to cancer.ca, the survival rate for most non-melanoma skin cancers is ‘excellent.’
There is a 100% rate of survival for five years post-diagnosis, which means all of those diagnosed with BCC are just as likely to live for five years after their diagnosis as anyone in the general population.
This is cited to be down to a number of BCC traits that make it easier to survive compared to melanoma cancers. These include the fact that non-melanoma cancers grow slowly, are often found and treated early and BCC in particular rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
The sun’s allure is undeniable, especially in picturesque locales like Marbella. However, it’s essential to remain vigilant and informed about the potential risks. Regular check-ups, awareness, and timely interventions can make all the difference in ensuring one’s skin remains healthy and cancer-free.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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