When surfing gets under your skin
Regular skin screening
Sabine Meier (42) knows that as a blue-eyed blonde with fair skin she has to be on the lookout for light-induced changes to her skin. A passionate surfer, she has been travelling around the world for years, spending a lot of time being active in the sun. She also ranks in a group at risk due to hereditary factors – her mother was diagnosed with skin cancer at the age of 60. When Sabine turned 35, this led her to see her dermatologist every couple of years since for precautionary skin checkups – an easy decision for her to make as her health care insurer pays the costs.
Diagnosis: basal cell carcinoma – what next?
These checkups proved to be a good idea: "Thanks to my regular skin screenings, my dermatologist discovered a basal cell carcinoma on my temple early on – At first I was quite shocked when I found out. Then my dermatologist explained to me both the benefits and disadvantages of the various possible therapies, with their risks and chances of recovery. In my case, my dermatologist recommended photodynamic therapy. This seemed to make sense because I had a superficial skin tumour that PDT could treat – PDT is not only effective and covers a wide area but is also gentle. I was so relieved to avoid a painful surgical operation that might also eventually leave scars."
The skin forgets nothing...
Sabine Meier plans to carry on surfing, but is now especially well protected: "Now I take more care to have sufficient protection against the sun. I apply a highly waterproof light protection factor and then reapply it several times a day. I tell my children how important it is to protect against sunburn with the right clothing, suncream, as well as avoiding midday sun and sunbathing too much. I'm aware sunburns in childhood and teenage years increase the risk of getting skin cancer later."
The number of skin cancer cases has jumped more than fourfold over the past 40 years. New cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the USA alone are estimated at around 5 million per year. Around half of Europeans over 60 contract actinic keratosis – which is an early-stage non-melanoma skin cancer. This preliminary stage accounts for 58 million patients in the USA. The number of cases in young people is also rising constantly due to changes in leisure and vacation habits. Meanwhile, German healthcare insurance funds are screening intensively for skin cancer in the 35+ age group as part of a campaign that has helped raise awareness about the risks deriving from sun-induced changes to skin. People are nevertheless not really sufficiently aware about this widespread condition.