Sunscreen alert issued to stem rise in cancers
Hongkongers were warned yesterday to use plenty of sunscreen this summer to ensure they are protected from overexposure to ultraviolet light which can cause skin cancer.
The Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society urged people to take precautions against the summer sun, saying the number of new cancer cases has continued to rise in the past decade.
Some 594 new cases of skin cancer were reported in 2004, compared with 403 in 1990, according to the group, which said the increasing popularity of outdoor activities and lack of awareness of prevention measures were the reasons for the growing incidence of skin cancers.
The group projects the number of new cases will increase to 740 in 2010.
'The general public seems to be more concerned about the problem, but they do not seem to know how much sunscreen they should apply to make the protection effective,' Anthony Ying Chi-ho, chairman of the society's cancer detection and prevention subcommittee, said.
Dr Ying said most sunscreen products only informed customers about the SPF (sun protection factor) reading and the PA plus (Protection UVA, a standard to indicate effectiveness in protecting the skin from UVA radiation), but they did not tell users how much they should apply.
'To be effective, about 30 millilitres - or about half the amount of a tube of toothpaste - should be used for the whole body,' he said.
'But, of course, most of the time we don't have to use that much, as we only have to apply sunscreen to our faces.'
He reminded sunscreen users to concentrate applications to their noses and ears, as they were more likely to suffer sunburn.
Dr Ying said sunblock products with high SPF might not necessarily offer the best protection from ultraviolet rays because these products often contained more chemicals than those with low SPF.
'The presence of numerous chemicals might cause irritation for some, and users might develop skin problems,' he said.
Swimmers and people who enjoy outdoor activities should apply sunscreen every 30 minutes or hour, as no sunblock products were totally waterproof, said Dr Ying.
'The sunscreen might be washed away by water or sweat and it is important to reapply the cream constantly. I learnt that some swimming pools ban the use of sunscreen fearing that the cream might make the pool water milky, and I think this concept should be changed.'
Dr Ying also warned the public to avoid indoor tanning, as those who have the treatment have a 75 per cent per cent higher risk of developing skin cancer.
'We strongly urge the public not to try indoor tanning which is popular among young people. We are worried that more young people will suffer from skin cancer in the next 10 to 20 years, if they continue to do indoor tanning,' he said.
'We must educate the young when they are small so that they have a concept that it is very important to protect themselves against sunlight.'
The Anti-Cancer Society is planning to send letters to schools to remind teachers to help students to take precautions when they are outside in strong sunlight.
Estimated rate of non-melanoma skin cancer cases in Hong Kong in 2004 per 100,000 population
Source: Hong Kong Cancer Registry