"It is not a good thing to abuse sunshine, but nor is it good not to use it enough"

Francisco Sánchez Fajardo.
Francisco Sánchez Fajardo. / Francis Silva
  • After a lifetime working at the Carlos Haya hospital, dermatologist and venereologist Francisco Sánchez Fajardo says people are looking after their skin much better than they used to

He has been working at the Carlos Haya hospital in Malaga since 1978 and still attends his clinic there despite becoming Emeritus a few months ago. Francisco Sánchez Fajardo is a dermatologist and venereologist. He is straightforward and not pessimistic, although he is of course conscious of the increase in melanomas and venereal diseases in recent years. A member of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV) and the Ibero-Latin-American College of Dermatology (CILAD), he says that in his profession “we deal with unusual cases, so we learn something new every day.”

–If the face is the mirror of the soul, is our skin the mirror of health?

–I don’t think the face is the mirror of anything, and the skin can be a mirror of health sometimes, and sometimes not. There are people who look lovely outside and are awful inside, and vice versa.

–Do you feel that we don’t really bother much about our skin?

–No; on the contrary, nowadays people look after their health and their skin better than they used to.

–In Malaga, though, we tend to toast ourselves which can have serious consequences especially if we sunbathe without protection.

–Like everything in life, the sun has its advantages. It is not good to abuse it, but nor is it good not to use it enough. The sun is this planet’s greatest source of energy and is good for some cutaneous and non-cutaneous illnesses. For example, it is essential for the absorption of vitamin D, and a lack of that can cause rickets.

–I’ve read that according to dermatologist Lola Bou, the skin has a memory and every time it burns, even when you are a child, it can lead to cancer later in life. Is that correct?

–The skin obviously does have a memory, but you can’t go through your whole life thinking that you are definitely going to have skin cancer in the future. It is more likely if you have suffered from sunburn, which is why you should try to avoid burning by using protection and only exposing your skin to the sun when the rays are not perpendicular, in other words, by making sure that the shadow which protects your body is longer than you are, which is in the early morning or in the evening.

–OK, but there is a statistic that in recent years melanoma has increased in both men and women.

–That is becoming evident. I think numbers are similar, but it is being diagnosed earlier. People are more aware, there are campaigns at a local, national and international level, and people now go to a doctor if they are worried, they are treated earlier and the consequences are less severe.

–Why, when we get older, do we get more marks on our skin, and warts?

–You’re referring to the seborrheic keratoses and other benign degenerative processes of the skin. People live longer now, and they expose their skin more, but there is no real evidence that these are more frequent than in the past. With regard to warts, we dermatologists see them as an infection of the human papiloma virus and it is possible that they are on the increase because there are more social relations nowadays, such as public swimming pools, gymnasiums, nursery schools etc.

–So, it is difficult to prevent them…

–Yes, very, because we live in collective environments. Research on vaccines is being done at the moment, and there are already some against papiloma and other viruses, but it is doubtful how effective they are.

–In a society in which relationships are more interchangeable, has there been an increase in venereal infections?

–Yes, there has, it seems that young people are losing their fear of sexually transmitted diseases, including Aids. Promiscuity has increased, and that is a factor in the growth of these health problems. It is most important to emphasise the need for prevention: use condoms, monitor the health of prostitutes etc.

–What are the most common infections these days?

–It is complicated to draw up statistics, because many people don’t consult a doctor, some treat themselves, some infections don’t give any symptoms so people don’t know they have them... At the moment, there seem to be more viral infections: warts and genital herpes, for example. Then fungal infections, especially candidas, and finally bacterial ones such as syphilis, which are often discovered when patients consult their doctor for something else.

–And there are now a great many ‘experts’ thanks to the Internet.

–There are some people who act in good faith, and others who are only interested in money. They both cause a degree of social damage.