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Two in three Aussies will be diagnosed with a skin cancer by the time they turn 70, so it’s something we all need to be aware of. Unfortunately, this is Australia’s national cancer, including both Melanoma and Nonmelanoma skin cancer.
Melanoma cancer develops in the skin’s melanocytes (pigment-producing cells located on the top layer of the skin) compared to Nonmelanoma which refers to any cancer that forms in the basal, squamous or Merkel cells of the skin.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. In 2020 it was estimated that over 16,000 Aussies would be diagnosed with melanoma.
The most common cause of skin cancer is damage to the skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. These UV rays hold no discrimination of age, race or gender and will damage skin extensively if an individual has been overexposed to UV radiation through work extensively outdoors, spending too much time in UV Index 3+ environments or not practicing sun safety.
Only Exercise Indoors?
It is common knowledge that a healthy daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun significantly improves not just your physical health but also your mental and social well-being. However, studies have shown that a range of athletes including hikers, tennis players and runners, exceed the recommended ultraviolet exposure limit by up to eight times during the summer months. The answer to reducing the prevalence of skin cancer isn’t to discontinue exercising outside completely, rather, to take preventable actions in reducing the severity of impact the sun has on your skin.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
The strategies provided by MSCAN that assist in reducing the risk of developing a skin cancer may seem rudimentary, yet if done correctly and consistently are extremely effective for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Approaches to reduce your risk include:
- Avoid peak UV times and seek shade –
UV rays are at their strongest between 10am and 4pm with their levels varying throughout the day and the most damage occurring when about UV level 3. Individuals should check Bureau of Meteorology website for constant daily updates of their local UV rays
- Wear sun protective clothing, broad-brimmed hat and sunnies –
Although it may seem obvious hats, particularly broad-brimmed or legionnaire hats provide your face with terrific protection from our vibrant sun. Additionally, coloured clothing is typically more protective than lighter coloured and you may like to look for clothing that has a UPF rating. Lastly, UV light can have harmful effects on the eyes and eyelids causing ocular melanoma so it suggested to choose a category 2 or higher lenses in your sunglasses which will absorb more than 95% of the radiation.
- Sunscreen is your last line of defence –
Sunscreen should never be your sole protection against the sun. It is recommended to always Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen (protection against both UVB and UVA rays) of SPF 30 or higher (Sun Protection Factor – indicates what percentage of the sun’s UV rays it can block)
- Lather up! And often! Even on cloudy days –
It’s important to lather a thick layer or you won’t get the full SPF protection stated on the label even when you don’t think the UV rays are at their most dangerous. This means covering your whole body, applying 15 minutes before exposure, and reapplying immediately after swimming, sweating, or using a towel.