Shining a Light on Sun, Skin and Safety: Protecting Yourself from Skin Cancer

G’day. Skin cancer is something that affects a lot of Aussies, especially those living outside of major cities. Talking about skin and cancer may not sound like the most exciting topic, but, it’s super important.

Is that itchy mole bothering you? How about that new lesion that’s popped up out of nowhere? Well, there’s a small chance that this could be your skin cells growing out of control and forming skin cancer. There are different types of skin cancer, and the most serious one is melanoma. If it’s not detected and treated early, it might spread to other parts of your body and make you really unwell.

We Aussies love to spend time outdoors. Boats, fishing, sports, camping and even on the farm …you name it! This however comes at a cost of being exposed to UV rays for long periods of time. This is where trouble can start. The sun’s rays can damage our skin and make us more likely to develop skin cancer.

The good news is there are plenty of things that we can do to minimise risk. Firstly, avoid being in the sun during the hottest part of the day, that is between 10am and 4pm. We can also check the ultraviolet light (UV) rating SunSmart website or a weather app and apply sunscreen if it’s any higher than 2. If you have to be outside, wear hats, long-sleeved shirt and long pants to cover up. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Apply sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30+ on any part of exposed skin and do this as frequently as every 2 hours if swimming or sweating.

Be proactive and keep an eye out for any spots on your skin that have appeared or look different from others. Maybe they are constantly changing, have weird shapes and colours. If you do notice something, don’t panic. Most spots are nothing to be worried about. If you are concerned however, your doctor or skin specialist can check it for you and provide appropriate care. As with most cancers, the earlier we detect it, the lower the risk.

Prevention is better than cure so remember to cover up, rub that sunscreen in and keep an eye out for weird-looking spots on your skin and get them checked if you are worried. Stay safe and enjoy the outdoors! For more information, see the Cancer Council website on sun protection.


Jeffrey Xu is a final year medical student at Deakin University who is completing his clinical placements at Box Hill Hospital (2023). He has an interest in skin health including the prevention and treatment of skin cancer.

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