Skin Cancer Prevention
Australia is located right underneath the thinnest part of the ozone layer, so it’s no surprise we have the highest skin cancer rate in the world!
Most of the skin cancer damage is from UVA and UVB rays, not to mention the skin damage we associate with wrinkles, sagging and pigmentation. However, we do need some exposure to the sun, as Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium necessary for strong bones, muscles and pearly whites.
According to the Cancer Council, (cancer.org.au) around 95-99% of people diagnosed with skin cancer could have been prevented if they were using regular sun protection.
Here is a list of guidelines that will help you be a sun-smart person:
1. Stay in the shade between 10 am to 3 pm: This is the hottest part of the day and when the UV rays are most intense. If you do go outdoors limit the time that you’re spending in direct sunlight.
2. Don’t get sunburnt!: If you go outside make sure to protect your skin with sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing. The UV rays can penetrate in any weather, especially on cloudy days. When you’re swimming and feel cool in the water, you can still get sunburn. However, if you still happen to get sunburn, use aloe vera or after sun-care lotion as soon as possible. Don’t use a moisturiser though, it will make your sunburn worse.
3. Wear protective clothing, including sunglasses and hat: This is especially important for people who have fair skin, are balding or have a history of skin cancer.
4. Clothing: Wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants and/or long skirt to cover most of the skin. UV rays can still pass through your clothing so choose a tightly woven fabric which will protect better than loosely woven ones and dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric. A typical light t-shirt usually protects you less than sunscreen with a sun protection factor of SPF 15 or higher. Some sun-protective clothes and swimming costumes (such as those you can purchase from the Cancer Council) have a label listing for ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) value.
5. Hat: Definitely put on those cute wide brim hats! We recommend having a hat which has at least a 5 cm brim, so you can protect your neck, scalp, forehead, eyes and ears. Another alternative is a cap with a flap at the back and sides of your face. Skin cancers commonly develop on the back of the neck and the ears, so it’s important to protect these areas. Do not rely on woven hats, unless the weave is tight!
6. Sunglasses: You need to protect your eye area too, so wear a good pair of sunnies. However, don’t concern yourself with the colour of the lenses, the protection comes from a clear chemical applied to lenses, so it doesn’t matter if it’s light or dark.
7. Don’t rely on mineral make-up and bronzers to protect you: While many cosmetics state they have in-built SPF, these products provide very little protection from UV damage. You should always apply sunscreen underneath make-up.
8. Keep babies out of direct sunlight: Use hats and protective clothing whenever outdoors. Use sunscreen on children six months or older.
9. It’s a good idea to educate children as soon as they are old enough to understand about the dangers of the sun and when and where to wear sunscreen, so they can develop good sun smart habits.
10. Self-examine your skin every month for any changes: Have a professional check every year. See the FAQs for what you can expect from a skin check and how to complete a skin check yourself.