Healthy holidays, what you need to know before drinking and soaking up the summer sun

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As the beaches and outdoor resorts attract South Africans throughout the summer months, seeing people soaking up the sunshine, CANSA emphasises it is pivotal that people are aware of the necessary steps to take when outdoors.

The organisation explains that sunburn can occur within 15 minutes. While sunburn is highly uncomfortable, CANSA points out the damage caused is permanent, irreversible and adds up with each exposure to the sun’s rays.

Moreover, the organisation states, “Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and SA has one of the highest monitored ultraviolet (UV) levels in the world, resulting in one of the highest skin cancer rates globally. UV radiation is just as dangerous for outdoor labourers, sportspeople, on the playground or when driving to work, as it is when at the beach or pool. Rays can also reflect off surfaces and cause sunburn when it is overcast.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the frequency of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers have been increasing over the past decades. Furthermore, WHO estimates a 10 % decrease in ozone levels can result in an additional 300 000 non-melanoma and 4 500 melanoma skin cancer cases globally.

With this in mind, CANSA says more than 20 000 South Africans were diagnosed with the most common non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) in 2014 and more than 1500 were diagnosed with melanoma.

It is essential to highlight, people with blonde or redhead hair with light skin, freckles, and green or blue eyes are more at risk for sunburn and skin damage, and need to take extra care to protect their skin.

While this category of people is more at risk, it is vital to note that skin cancer doesn’t only affect Caucasian people—it can affect everyone, regardless of race or ethnic group. While people with darker skins are less vulnerable, because their skin contains more natural melanin, which protects against sun damage, everyone is at risk from the harsh African sun.

In darker-skinned people, 70 % of melanomas have been reported to be on the lower limb, with 90% of those being below the ankle. The most common subtype, acral lentiginous melanoma, appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

While taking care of your skin this festive season is paramount, it is not the only aspect of your health you need to be concerned about.

For thousands of South Africans, the holiday period is the ideal time to indulge in alcoholic beverages. But while we are all fully aware that overindulging in alcohol isn’t exactly healthy, how many of us are fully aware of the damage alcohol causes to our bodies?

Jeske Wellmann, a dietician at Mediclinic Sandton, highlights that our livers are amazing organs, in that it helps detoxify chemicals and metabolising drugs. In fact, she stresses, the liver processes over 90% of the alcohol a person consumes, while the rest is lost through urine, sweat and breathing.

But, as Wellmann points out, the more you drink, the longer it takes to process/metabolise the alcohol consumed, resulting in the liquor which can’t be metabolised circulating in your bloodstream. This is when alcohol affects your brain and heart.

Long-term drinking has a destructive effect on the liver cells, which can result in liver cirrhosis.

The damage does not end there though, as Dr Nikola Batev, a GP at Mediclinic Highveld stresses. According to Dr Batev, drinking too much alcohol can see your blood pressure increase to unhealthy levels.

The doctor stresses that repeated binge drinking can lead to chronic hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Additionally, according to one study published in the journal Atherosclerosis, the research found that binge drinking increased the development of Atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries). This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Additionally, too much alcohol can also affect the lining of your stomach, increasing the production of stomach acid, which then can result in ulcers.

Noting, drinking too much alcohol sees your body attempting to get rid of the poison. This often comes at the expense of other biological processes, such as the production of glucose and regulating hormones.

Scientists have also identified factors which can potentially increase your risk of developing certain cancers, such as mouth and throat, larynx (voice box), oesophagus, colon and rectum, liver and breast if you are a heavy drinker.

With an array of negative implications on your health, ensure you avoid indulging too much in alcohol this festive season, thereby ensuring you live an enjoyable, healthy life.

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