‘It’s not something you expect in your 20s’: how to be Sunsmart and avoid skin cancer
For many of us, summer is the best time of year – long, hot days and a sense of freedom that’s unique to the season. But the blue skies and outdoor activities mean we also spend a lot more time in the sun, which in Australia is as dangerous as it is enjoyable. This National Skin Cancer Action Week, we want you to know that skin can burn in the Aussie sun in just 15 minutes.
According to the Cancer Council, skin cancer is Australia’s most common cancer – two in three Australians will be diagnosed by the age of 70 and around 2000 die from the disease each year.
It’s also not just something that happens to older Australians or those with fair skin. Check out these 10 myths about sun protection and watch Lana’s story of being diagnosed with melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) when she was only 25:*
*Video courtesy of the Cancer Council.
How to be Sunsmart
The good news is that skin cancer is largely preventable – you just need to know the risks and be Sunsmart. Here’s how you can enjoy the great outdoors in a safe way.
Get regular skin checks
Did you know that the Deakin Medical Centre offers a skin check service? Getting your skin checked by a GP or service provider is something you should do once every two years.
In this consultation, a medical professional will look over your moles, freckles and skin to inspect and identify anything that could be a risk to your health. You’ll also be able to discuss your sun safety routine and how to lower your risk of skin cancer and sun damage. (Note: while skin checks are not available at the Warrnambool Campus, you can see our nurse for general advice about how to keep your skin healthy.)
In between appointments, you should also be aware of your skin and any changing or new moles that appear. If you notice anything unusual, painful or different, see your doctor straight away.
Make sure you’re UV-aware
- Monitor the UV Index and Bureau of Meteorology website. The UV Index tells you which times you’re most at risk – usually in the middle of the day. A UV Index of 3 or above means you’re at risk of sun damage.
- Download the SunSmart app for information on when you need to wear sun protection, stay inside or in the shade.
Follow the five ‘s’‑words
- Slip on sun-protective clothing: wear densely woven clothing that covers as much skin as possible – for example, shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars. Wear swimmers made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun-protective when wet, and long-sleeved rash vests.
- Slop on sunscreen: use water-resistant SPF 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen (this will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays). Apply at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours.
- Slap on a hat: a broad-brimmed, legionnaire or bucket-style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers. Choose one made with closely woven fabric – if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through.
- Seek shade: use trees or built shade structures, or bring your own! Make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.
- Slide on some sunglasses: choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067.
Like to know more about how to be Sunsmart? Visit the Cancer Council website for a range of helpful information and resources on sun safety.