Play it safe in the sun these summer holidays. With Christmas over and after a wet start to the season, we’re heading to the beach for a bit of sun and fun.
Having fun in the great Australian outdoors is certainly on this summer, but a tan is so passé. This year more than eight thousand Australians will be treated for melanomas and a further four hundred will die of complications from squamous and basal cell carcinomas of the skin.
If you are between 15 and 24-years-old, melanoma represents your biggest risk of death from any cancer.
Over the years great hopes have been raised for new treatments, but at this point only prevention, detecting changes early and removing cancers adequately has been shown to make a difference. In fact, 95% of all melanomas are treatable if detected early.
To put things right …
Most skin cancers do not arise from long standing moles; they come up as new ‘spots’.
Melanomas are not necessarily dark; thirty percent are, in fact, pink or pale and only rarely hurt or bleed. So mind the new pink pimple that will not go away!
Melanomas are not confined to areas of sun exposure; they can grow on soles of feet or under nails.
Bob Marley famously died from a melanoma under his toe nail.
So what to do?
– If possible, stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm daylight saving time.
– Wear UV protective clothing, sunglasses, as well as a broad brimmed hat.
Baseball caps might be trendy, but they don’t protect those sensitive ears that you need to keep your sunglasses up.
– Use SPF 30+ sunscreen if you are exposed to the sun for more than 15 minutes.
Applying sunscreen protects you from burning, but if this causes you to stay out for longer, it might not reduce your cancer risk.
Australian regulations allow only for labels up to SPF30+. Some sunscreens have much higher potency then SPF30. Ask you doctor or chemist for details.
– Never allow your skin to burn, in particular when you are young. Sun damage in the first 15 years of life is tremendously harmful.
– Wear full protection of arms, neck and face when welding, as this produces high levels of harmful UVC radiation.
– Check your skin regularly with regards to changing, or in particular new spots.
– New moles can appear during childhood and pregnancy. Any new ‘mole’ in an adult as well as a change in size, colour, shape and regularity of an old mole warrants a visit to your doctor.
A number of doctors carrying additional qualifications in skin cancer medicine work at Faulkner Street Medical Practice.
Obviously anybody can suffer a skin cancer, but who is most at risk?
Relatives of a melanoma sufferer have four times the usual risk to develop a melanoma.
Those who had a melanoma in the past have a ten times increased risk to suffer a second one.
People with five or more irregular / dysplastic moles have forty times the average risk to develop melanoma in their life time.
Medication suppressing the immunity, regular outside work, frequently being burned in childhood, fair hair, skin and eye colour complete the list.
After all that, enjoy your summer. Maybe catch an early surf or cool down at the beach before dinner. Why not spend the middle of the day in the shade with a cool drink?