Skin cancer action – how to have safe fun in the summer sun

Do you ever find your skin red, raw, blistered or peeling after being out in the summer sun? Maybe after a day at the beach, out on the water, in the garden or playing sport? Unfortunately, more than a quarter of Australians still admit that sun protection isn’t part of their daily routine.

It’s this relaxed attitude to the sun’s damaging effects which has led to Australia having one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world. Currently 2 in 3 Australians are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70! The slightly better news is 95% of those skincancers can be successfully treated as long as 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:

  1. Your age
  2. Your ethnicity
  3. Your family history
  4. Your skin type and complexion
  5. Your sun exposure and history of sunburn
  6. Any previous skin cancer treatment you may have needed
  7. 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

Protective measures

Sid the seagull launched the Cancer Council’s “Slip Slop Slap” campaign over 40 years ago, and his three basic precautions are still vital today, especially as both the intensity of the sun and our risk of skin cancer, have been steadily increasing over the last four decades due to environmental factors.

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

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

Another “Seek” for regular skin checks and advice from your doctor

Given that 95% of skin cancers can be successfully treated if detected early, we believe adding another “Seek” to the above list is critical – 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 your chances of a successful treatment and also give you peace of mind.

Booking a thorough, overall skin cancer check with your doctor on a regular basis is also a very good idea. The Cancer Council and Ochre Health recommend a skin check every 12 months, especially for people over the age of 30.

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

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