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Being sun smart this summer

Kim Larkin

Thu Dec 29 2011


SUMMER is here! But watch out beachgoers, the biggest danger in Australia during the hot months isn’t sharks and it’s not dehydration either, it’s skin cancer.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays (aka the Sun) is one of the leading causes of cancer, with more diagnoses than lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer combined.

Australia also has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, almost four times more than the second highest, the US.

Recent Cancer Council Australia figures show two out of three Aussies are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70. Skin cancer counts for 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers and melanoma is the most common cancer in people aged 15-44.

Melanoma? No, I didn’t make up a scary sounding word to scare you into being sun smart. Melanoma is the most vicious type of skin cancer, but unfortunately also the most common type in Australia.

It looks harmless enough too, usually appearing as a discolored spot/mole on the skin or as a small red lump. So what causes melanoma? Simply, exposure to the UV radiation in sunlight.

Imagine that global warming has delivered us a big microwave in the sky and every sunny day that microwave is slowly cooking us, because essentially that’s what is happening.

Sunburn and tanning, as well as prolonged time in the sun are the key causes of skin cancer and melanoma and will damage your skin.

To avoid skin cancer you don’t have to be a shut-in all summer long. Just remember to take these preventative measures before you head out to enjoy your time in the sun:

Use sunscreen, preferably with a higher SPF rating (waterproof SPF30+ is recommended by the Cancer Council). Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied ever two hours.

Cover up: Cover your skin with as much clothing as possible. Think hats, long sleeve shirts and cotton pants, maxi-dresses, ponchos, anything that will prevent the sun’s harmful rays from penetrating your skin!

Don’t forget your face: That’s your ears, nose, forehead, etc. Anything can burn, so remember a hat, sunglasses and more sunscreen for your face.

And most importantly, seek shade. The sun doesn’t just damage your skin, it can dehydrate you, cause headaches and sunstroke/heatstroke, so the best way to avoid any medical issues is to avoid direct sunlight whenever you can.

With the right precautions in place, your summer doesn’t have to be inside one. Be smart. If you’re swimming make sure your sunscreen is waterproof, if you are on a tram make sure you have your sunnies on, if you’re outside between 10am and 2pm always seek shade because this is when the sun is at its hottest.

So don’t freak out, just be sun smart and enjoy an amazing summer holiday in Melbourne!