10 September 2018
Spring is here and the flowers are starting to bloom, but the sun isn’t shining too bright yet, and it’s certainly not ‘hot’, so why are we recommending people to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide?
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and—despite being an almost entirely preventable disease—at least two in every three Australians will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Too often people forget the importance of sun protection because ultraviolet (UV) radiation can’t be seen or felt.
However, we know that it is UV radiation that causes the damage that can lead to skin cancer, not temperature or weather. And it is because UV and temperature aren’t related that we can still be exposed to damaging UV even on a windy, cool or cloudy day. Skin damage from UV radiation is irreversible and cumulative, meaning that once the damage is done it remains (due to changes to the cell’s DNA) and that it also builds up over time.
Naturally, as the weather does start to warm up over spring, Australians tend to bare more skin and spend more time enjoying the great outdoors, often without sun protection.
In South Australia, UV levels typically begin to reach the skin damaging level of 3, from the beginning of August every year. Yes—that’s right—in winter. It’s not surprising when people question whether sun protection is really required this ‘early’ in the year. Being aware of the daily sun protection times can help you to know when the UV Index is 3 and above, which is when sun protection is recommended. Check the daily sun protection times online at www.sunsmart.org.au or download the free SunSmart app to your mobile phone.
Protect your eyes and skin by using the five SunSmart measures during the daily sun protection times:
- Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Slop on SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen and reapply at least every two hours.
- Slap on a shady hat that protects the face, head, neck and ears. A cap is does not provide adequate protection.
- Seek shade wherever possible.
- Slide on wraparound sunglasses.
These messages aren’t new but in reality most of us are just not doing them. Some of us simply forget, or perhaps we aren’t doing all of the SunSmart measures at once—which is needed for the best protection against the sun’s harmful UV.
Most skin cancers are treatable if caught early, so it’s also important to check all areas of your skin regularly for new spots or spots that have changed in colour, shape or size. You know your skin best so don’t hesitate to see your GP if you find anything you’re not sure about. For more information on skin cancer prevention and how to check your skin for early signs of skin cancer, visit www.sunsmart.org.au.