According to statistical information from Dr Elizabeth Quamina Cancer Registry at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, there is a continuous increase in skin cancer in Trinidad and Tobago.

Registered psychiatric nurse and team lead, educator at the T&T Cancer Society, Sherma Mills-Serette, made the revelation yesterday during her presentation at the webinar titled: Ozone Layer Depletion and Skin Cancer.

The Ministry of Planning and Development, Environmental Policy and Planning Division hosted the virtual event.

Although Mills-Serette could not give current statistics given the process to access them, she did reference 2015 statistical data that supported the rise.

“Sometimes we have them both as a primary site and a secondary site and sometimes some of them are radiation-induced. I have seen a couple of cases where people with invasive aggressive breast cancer did radiation and after radiation treatment, they got skin cancer. So it has been on the increase here in Trinidad and Tobago and we are continuing to get some statistics where skin cancer is concerned,” said Mills-Serette.

Of the three main types of skin cancers—melanoma being the most serious, Mills-Serette said in T&T the basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma were presenting more at the clinic.

She explained the latter was more aggressive than the basil cell carcinoma and was more likely to invade fatty tissue. It also mostly affected people of older ages—50 and over, and men were more likely than women to have basal squamous cell cancers.

She noted smoking also predisposed one to develop basal squamous cell cancers.

About local melanoma cases, Mills-Serrette said most times it was hereditary, “Ten per cent of the people with melanoma have a family history of persons with it—a fact that we have proven right here in Trinidad and Tobago. Most of the persons who we’ve seen and treated, they have a family history of melanomas.”

She said the risk for women developing melanoma was higher before age 50 and after 50 in men.

Highlighting people of a “lighter shade” or pigmentation were more at risk for developing skin cancers and how the sun played a major role in that, Mills-Serette with the help of multimedia slides illustrated just how ultraviolet radiation—UVB and UVA rays were casual factors.

She explained unprotected exposure to both damages the DNA in the skin cells producing genetic defects or mutations that could lead to skin cancer.

It was also explained, ozone layer depletion increased the amounts of UVB rays reaching the earth.

Mills-Serette said some good steps in preventing skin cancers would be to reduce one’s exposure to UVB and UVA rays and all other forms of UV light. As well as, becoming more aware of any abnormal skin legions that may appear as moles, brown spots and growths or even pimples.