Skin cancer action this summer

Many people find themselves red, raw, blistered and peeling at some point during our long Australian summer. It’s almost a tradition and it often happens without a passing thought beyond applying some moisturising cream and making a mental note to be more careful.

It’s this kind of casual attitude to the sun’s effects which has led to Australia having one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, with 2 in 3 Australians diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70! The better news is that 95% of those skin cancers can be successfully treated if they are detected early.

What is your risk of skin cancer?

Your personal risk of skin cancer is determined by many contributing factors. The key ones include:

  • Your age
  • Your ethnicity
  • Your family history
  • Your skin type and complexion
  • Your sun exposure and history of sunburn
  • Any previous skin cancer treatment you may have needed
  • How often you get a skin check done by your doctor

If you would like to get an idea of your risk, there are many personal risk assessment tools available online that calculate your risk based on your answers to evidence-based questions. With thanks to the Melanoma Research Division of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute based in Queensland, one such tool can be found here.

Important action for you to take

Protection measures

The Cancer Council’s “Slip Slop Slap” campaign featuring Sid the Seagull is 40 years old this year! We are obviously still under the same sun in 2020 but, if anything, its intensity and your risk of skin cancer have both increased over the last four decades due to environmental factors.

The Cancer Council has added two S’s to Sid’s message in recent years to make the current recommended sun protection measures:

  • Slip… on sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Slop… on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards.
  • Slap… on a hat, ideally with a broad brim to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek… shade.
  • Slide… on some sunglasses that meet Australian Standards.

Time to add another “Seek”

Given that 95% of skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early, we would like to add another “Seek” – and that is to seek medical advice without delay if you spot any skin growth or mole of concern. Getting your doctor to assess it sooner rather than later will maximise the chance of successful treatment and give you peace of mind.

Booking a thorough, overall skin cancer check with your doctor is also a good idea. The Cancer Council and Ochre Health recommend an annual skin check, especially for people over the age of 40.

Book an appointment with your GP today – it could save your life!


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