Melanomas: Office workers most vulnerable

Sunshine is beneficial but also dangerous, as overexposure has been shown to be responsible for the appearance of melanomas, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. Its victims are more often than not people who work indoors and who expose their skins to strong sunlight during the hottest part of the year. «The incidence of this type of cancer has been continually increasing around the world,» said Andreas Katsambas, an associate professor of dermatology at Athens University. «Seventy years ago, the likelihood of someone developing a melanoma was 1:200, now it is down to 1:80.» The fashion for tanned skin has been partly to blame, as well as briefer and briefer bathing suits. Then there is the increasing life span and improved diagnostic methods, as well as the reduction in the ozone layer over the last 10 years. Katsambas emphasized that the relationship between the sun and melanomas can be either direct or be related to other parameters, such as sunburn during childhood or sudden and intensive exposure to the sun. It has been shown that an office worker is more likely to contract a melanoma than a farmer who is continually outdoors. There is no «acceptable» length of time one can expose oneself to the sun’s rays. «It depends on the type of skin (white skin is more sensitive), the presence of an existing tan, the time of year (summer is obviously more dangerous) and the time of day. Sunbathing should be avoided between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.,» said Katsambas. Latitude is also important – the sun is stronger on Crete than it is in Thessaloniki – and altitude, as the sun’s rays are stronger by the sea than at higher altitudes. Parents should take particular care with children, whose skins have not yet accumulated enough melanin to act as a protective barrier. As for treating melanomas, the secret is diagnosis at an early stage when the disease is curable. During last year’s European Week against Melanoma, over 2,500 Greeks were examined. Of these, 11 were found to have melanomas.