Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Protecting Your Skin

May 3 2024

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness about the importance of sun safety and skin cancer prevention. In Australia, where the sun’s UV rays are particularly intense, skin cancer is a significant health concern. According to the Cancer Council Australia, skin cancer accounts for about 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the country.

Here are some important facts and tips to help you protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer:

1. Australia and Skin Cancer:

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Approximately 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, according to Cancer Council Australia.

2. Types of Skin Cancer:

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): The most common type of skin cancer, BCC often appears as a pink or translucent bump on the skin.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCC usually appears as a scaly or crusty bump on the skin, which may bleed easily and doesn’t heal.
  • Melanoma: Although less common than BCC and SCC, melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can spread rapidly if not treated early. It often appears as a new spot or an existing mole that changes in size, shape, or colour.

3. Risk Factors for Skin Cancer:

Several factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer, including:

  • Excessive Sun Exposure: Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is the primary cause of skin cancer. Australia’s high levels of UV radiation mean that even short periods of sun exposure can be harmful.
  • Fair Skin: People with fair skin, light-coloured eyes, and freckles are at higher risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Family History: If you have a family history of skin cancer, you may be at increased risk.
  • Previous Sunburns: A history of sunburns, especially during childhood, can increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

4. Prevention Tips:

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of skin cancer:

  • Slip on Sun-Protective Clothing: Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, including a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Slop on Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.
  • Slap on a Hat: Wearing a broad-brimmed hat can protect your face, ears, and neck from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Seek Shade: Stay in the shade, especially during the hottest part of the day (10 am to 4 pm).
  • Slide on Sunglasses: Wear sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 to protect your eyes from UV radiation.

5. Regular Skin Checks:

Regular self-examination of your skin can help you detect any changes early. If you notice any new spots, or existing spots that have changed in size, shape, or colour, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Skin Cancer Awareness Month is an important reminder to take care of your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer. By following sun safety guidelines and being vigilant about checking your skin for changes, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this potentially deadly disease. Take the necessary steps today to protect your skin and enjoy the sun safely.