10 January 2019

Summer Daze

SunSmart Victoria Manager Heather Walker shares her top tips to staying smart in the sun this summer.

With the warmer months comes the temptation to spend the days lazing in the sun. But with fun in the sun, comes the increased risk of sun damage and skin cancer.

But never fear, SunSmart Victoria Manager Heather Walker has shared her advice to help you be safe in the sun this summer.

Rates of skin cancer in Australia are high. According to SunSmart, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. We have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

A spot on your skin may seem unsuspecting, but skin cancer is serious. Each year, about 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer. But the good news is that almost all types of skin cancer are preventable, and it’s never too late to use sun protection to reduce your risk.

“While skin cancer is Australia’s most common cancer, it’s also one of the most preventable. Studies have shown using good sun protection can reduce your skin cancer at any age – even for people who have been previously diagnosed with a skin cancer,” Heather said.

Over 45? You’re at increased risk

As we get older, our risk of skin cancer increases, with most skin cancers diagnosed
in people over the age of 45.

“This is most likely because the older you are, the more time you’ve been exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is the biggest cause of skin cancer,” Heather said.

“Older Australians have grown up at a time before the ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ message sang out on our screens, when sun protection really wasn’t part of the Australian culture.”

Heather said it’s an important message for everyone – regardless of age – to catch up on,
and understand their skin cancer risk.

“Good sun protection (that means clothing, sunscreen, hats, shade and sunglasses) is
important at any age and can reduce the risk of further damage to your skin adding up.”

Spot the difference

The early detection of skin cancer is especially important for older Australians - getting to know your skin and being aware of what to look out for is vital.

“Skin cancer can appear as a new spot, or a spot that has changed in size, colour or shape,” Heather explained.

“We say look out for the ‘ugly duckling’ – that mark or spot on your skin that just looks unusual, different or not quite right. If you notice any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Most skin cancer is easily treatable at the early stages. But left untreated, it can be fatal.”

Heather said the best way to reduce your risk is to get to know your own skin.

“Most skin cancers are actually detected by the patient or their partner. And, because melanoma can be a fast-growing disease, Cancer Council doesn’t recommend waiting for an annual
or bi-annual skin check.

“Instead, Australians need to get to know their own skin and what it normally looks like so you can be aware of any changes. Check your whole skin, as skin cancer can appear anywhere – even on skin that hasn’t typically been exposed to the sun, like your underarms or the soles of your feet.

“For people with limited mobility, you could ask a partner or carer, or speak to
your doctor to find a surveillance plan that best suits you. You should also talk to your doctor about developing a surveillance plan if you fall into a ‘high risk’ category for skin cancer.”

It all adds up

In the summer months, our skin can burn in as quickly as 11 minutes. It’s damage that’s permanent, it can’t be undone. But there is good news: Heather says sun protection at any age will stop more damage from adding up.

Heather’s top tips to be SunSmart

Find the sun protection times in the newspaper or on the free SunSmart mobile and tablet app.

During sun protection times each day:
1. Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible
2. Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
and re-apply every two hours
3. Slap on a broad-brimmed hat
4. Seek shade where you can
5. Slide on sunglasses.

Did you know? 

When it comes to sun protection, it’s the UV you need to be mindful of, not the temperature outside. UV, or ultraviolet radiation, is a type of energy produced by the sun. You can’t see or feel UV and won’t notice the damage until it’s too late.To protect yourself, you need to use sun protection when the UV is forecast to be three or higher.

To find out the UV, check your local weather forecast, or visit the Bureau of Meteorology