Skin cancer action – the job’s not done until we’re all safe in the 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? For some people it’s almost a summer tradition and it often happens without a passing thought beyond applying some moisturising cream and making a mental note to be more careful in future. More than a quarter of Australians 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 skin cancers 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:
- 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
Would you believe the Cancer Council’s “Slip Slop Slap” campaign featuring Sid the Seagull is now over 40 years old? And the intensity of the sun, as well as your risk of skin cancer, have both been steadily increasing 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.
It’s now 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 your chances of a successful treatment and also 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 a skin check every 12 months, especially for people over the age of 40.
Book an appointment with your GP today – it could save your life!