Every year in Australia, skin cancers account for about 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers, and most are caused by exposure to the sun.
General practitioner and medical director at HealthShare Dr Jill Gamberg said ultraviolet rays (including UVA and UVB rays) from the sun can cause skin damage in as little as 15 minutes.
“Prolonged exposure to the sun and the resulting sun damage can lead to skin cancer. Approximately two thirds of Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they reach 70,” she said.
The incidence of skin cancer in Australia is one of the highest in the world, at two to three times the rates of skin cancer in the UK, USA, or Canada.
Protecting your skin
Whether working or playing, avoiding the sun between 10am and 3pm is the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays. This is when the sun is most intense and produces the greatest chance of sunburn and sun damage.
While sunscreen alone is not a complete protection from sun damage, when used in conjunction with protective gear and shade it can be an effective barrier.
“A sun protection factor (or SPF) of at least 30+ should be applied daily, even when the conditions cool or cloudy over summer. Re-apply every two hours, and after swimming or excessive sweating,” Dr Gamberg said.
“Do not forget to apply a lip-balm containing sunscreen to your lips too.”
Wear proper protective sunglasses to prevent damage to the eyes. The Cancer Council recommends using sunglasses rated 2 or above under the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 which absorb 95 per cent of UV radiation.
“A wide brimmed hat will protect your face, neck, ears and eyes. Seek shade by using an umbrella, a tree or other type of shelter.”
Other things to consider
Protect your young ones from the sun as their skin is more sensitive than adult skin. Fair skin will burn faster than darker skin, and the damage sustained to the skin by sunburn has long-term effects. (Source: Cancer Council website.)
“Be aware of medications that increase your sensitivity to the sun. Some antibiotics, over-the-counter medication, and some prescription medication can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Check with your pharmacist or doctor regarding your medications,” Dr Gamberg said.
Sunbeds increase the risk of skin cancer just like the sun, said Dr Gamberg, and should be avoided.
“Other factors can contribute to unhealthy skin, including smoking, dehydration, and an unhealthy diet.”
These can be discussed with your GP, skin cancer specialist or dermatologist who you should be seeing regularly for a skin check to monitor changes to moles or any new skin changes.
“These tips are to help you keep your skin safe this summer. We only have one skin and we have to keep it in top shape for our entire life. We need to nurture and safeguard it.
“By all means go outside and enjoy everything the summer has to offer, but remember to love and protect your skin.”
- For more information visit HealthShare, a joint venture with Fairfax to improve the health of regional Australians. Or you can find a specialist near you using the health tool below.