Did you know at least 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with a skin cancer before the age of 70?

It’s no surprise that our summers seem to be getting longer and hotter, so, having your skin checked by a doctor on a regular basis is important to spot any problems (whatever your skin type).

April 14, 2022

At least 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. And the risk is higher in men (2 in 3) than in women (3 in 5).  

Risk factors

You are at higher risk of developing skin cancer if you have:

  • Fair skin that burns easily and does not tan
  • Blue or green eyes and/or fair or red hair
  • Suffered sunburn as a child
  • Spent your childhood in Australia
  • Lots of freckles or moles
  • A family or personal history of skin cancer
  • Used a solarium
  • Worked or spent a lot of leisure time in the sun

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun

  • Sun exposure is the cause of around 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma skin cancers in Australia.
  • UV radiation from the sun causes sunburn, premature ageing of the skin, eye damage and skin cancer.
  • Each time your unprotected skin is exposed to UV radiation, it changes the structure of the DNA in the skin cells. Overexposure to UV radiation permanently damages the skin and the damage gets worse with each exposure.
  • Sun protection throughout our lives is important, particularly during childhood. UV exposure in childhood greatly increases the chance of getting melanoma later in life because the damaged cells have time to grow and develop into cancer.

UV radiation from solariums (sunbeds or sunlamps)

  • Solariums expose the user to UVA and UVB radiation, increasing their risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Cancer Council WA does not recommend using solariums for cosmetic tanning under any circumstance; in fact, commercial solariums are now banned in every Australian state and territory.  

Sunburn

  • In Australia, sunburn can occur in as little as 10 minutes on a fine summer day. Sunburn at any age, whether serious or mild, can cause permanent skin damage.
  • Sunburn is a major risk factor for developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma is more likely to occur in people who are exposed to the sun every now and then (for example, on weekends or holidays, especially if they get sunburnt), not a little bit every day.
  • However, people who have accumulated a lot of sun exposure continuously (for example, outdoor workers) are also at increased risk.

Tanning

  • Having a tan is a sign that the skin has been overexposed to UV radiation and damage has occurred, putting you at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Even a light tan shows that the skin has been damaged. Too much UV radiation also makes you look old before your time - making your skin look saggy, wrinkly, and leathery.
  • Some people think it's safe to tan if they don't burn. This is not true - there is no such thing as a healthy or safe tan.
Protect your skin

For best protection, when the UV level is 3 or above, the Cancer Council recommends a combination of sun protection measures:

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing - that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  • Slap on a hat - that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade.
  • Slide on some sunglasses - make sure they meet Australian standards.

Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense and make sure you visit your doctor for a skin check if you notice any changes or new moles on your skin.

For more information, visit: Cancer Council WA

Source: Cancer Council WA

Health and Fitness