Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Protecting your skin from UV radiation is important all year, not just during the summer. We can’t see or feel UV radiation and, exposure to UV radiation occurs from the sun and other sources, such as solariums (1).
Exposure to UV radiation damages skin cells which includes sunburn, tanning, premature ageing, and eye damage. To prevent UV damage to our skin and eyes, sun protection is recommended whenever UV levels reach 3 or higher. To check the UV index for your location, you can download the free SunSmart app or visit the Bureau of Meteorology website below (2).
To ensure the best protection, Cancer Council Australia recommends following the SunSmart steps below:
- Slip on covering clothing
- Use sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Slop on SPF 30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
- Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards.
- Slap on a hat
- Use a broad-brimmed or legionnaire or bucket style hat to protect your face, nose, neck and ears.
- Seek shade
- You can reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by staying in the shade under a tree, build shade structures such as a sunshade tent or umbrella.
- Slide on some sunglasses
- Choose close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses that meet Australian Standard AS/NSZ 1067.
It is recommended to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors. Many Australians do not apply enough sunscreen and often forget to reapply. Sunscreen should be applied every two hours, especially after swimming, when sweating, and/or towel drying. Make sure the sunscreen you use is at least 30SPF, broad-spectrum and water resistant. Most sunscreens will last two to three years, however it’s important to check the label on the sunscreen bottle, expiry date and, storage conditions recommended by the manufacturer (3).
Over 95% of skin cancers can be treated if found early. It is important to check your skin regularly for any new spots or changes in shape, colour or size of existing spots. Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles. If you notice any changes to a spot, non-healing sores, freckles, mole or are concerned about your skin cancer risk, see your doctor as soon as possible. The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better chance of avoiding surgery or further complications. Most skin cancer can be successfully treated if it is found early (4).
For more information about how to stay safe in the Sun, please visit the Cancer Council WA website below.
All information above has been sourced and adapted from the following websites:
(1) Cancer Council Australia (2022). Be SunSmart. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/be-sunsmart
(2) Cancer Council Australia (2022). UV Index. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/uv-index
(3) Cancer Council NSW (2020). 5 steps to applying sunscreen correctly. Retrieved from: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/news/5-steps-to-applying-sunscreen-correctly/
(4) Cancer Council WA (2022). Skin cancer. Retrieved from: https://www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/specific-cancers/skin-cancer/