Experts call on Ticos to do more to protect themselves from exposure to sunlight

October 1, 2013

Dermatologists at Costa Rica’s Social Security System, or Caja, are asking Ticos to take more precautions against exposure to sunlight, such as wearing hats and long sleeves.

In Costa Rica six people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, with 2,492 cases reported in 2012, the Caja reported.

Most affected residents live in the provinces of Cartago, Heredia and Alajuela and work outdoors, particularly farmers.

The Caja’s plea comes after analyzing data from various international studies that emphasize the importance of physical barriers to prevent skin cancer.

By “physical barriers,” experts refer to hats and long sleeves to protect mainly the face and arms, which are frequent areas of high exposure.

A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a separate one by the Canadian Medical Association emphazised the use of physical barriers as a primary means of protection. They also recommended the use of sunscreen.

Global studies indicate that 68 percent of skin cancer occurs on the face, mostly in areas around the lips, eyelids and ears.

Recent research also notes that four severe sunburns during childhood or adolescence double the risk of getting skin cancer in adulthood, the Caja reported.

Sergio Cortés, a dermatologist at Calderón Guardia Hospital in San José, said many of his patients are farmers or people who work outdoors.

“Farmers in mountainous areas of the country have a false sense of security from working under cloudy skies and in a cool climate, but UV radiation is there. People cannot see it and that gives the false impression of security,” he said.

Time of exposure also increases the risk of developing skin cancer. At midday, ultraviolet radiation waves fall perpendicular on the skin and cause more damage, and therefore people should avoid direct exposure to sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Caja doctors said.

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