I know, I know. Talking about sun safety is hardly a fun time. But it’s a fact of life that no Aussie can really avoid.
And seeing as we’ve stepped into those toasty summer months, it’s worth revisiting some details about looking after yourself in the heat.
By now, I’m sure we all know the basics of sun protection. Slip, slop, slap was drilled into us pretty well as kids. They’ve actually expanded on that bad boy now, Cancer Council’s suggestion is that in addition to slathering yourself in sunscreen (20 minutes before sun exposure and every two hours after that) “you should also protect yourself by slipping on protective clothing, slapping on a broad-brimmed hat, seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses”.
But did you know that you need to be applying a certain amount of sunscreen for it to have an impact?
How Much Sunscreen Do You Need To Apply?
According to Cancer Council Australia, you should be using at least seven teaspoons of the stuff.
Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Liz King, told me:
"Recent research published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology has shown 85 per cent of Australians don’t apply enough sunscreen."
So, make sure you're applying one teaspoon per arm. One for each leg. One for your front. Another for your back. And one for your face and neck. Oh, and if you go swimming; towel down or find yourself sweating a whole lot, you need to reapply your sunscreen (make it 30+ at a minimum, yeah?) more regularly than that two-hour window.
According to Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists, who are combining their powers of goodness for National Skin Cancer Action Week (November 15 – 21) about 2,000 people die from skin cancer every year.
In a recent update on this topic, they shared that “Every year in Australia skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers.”
The worst part? More than 95 per cent of those skin cancer cases come as a result of unprotected sun exposure.
So, now that we know how to properly work on preventing sun damage to our skin, let’s look at checking in with the experts.
How Often Should We Be Getting Skin Cancer Assessments?
Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that if you have any skin concerns there’s no harm in just heading straight to your doctor (preferably a dermatologist or skin cancer specialist). But on a more general level, Australia’s National Skin Cancer Centres recommend you pop in at least once a year – and every three to six months if you’re at a higher risk.
Bet that’s more frequently than you were expecting (full disclosure, it surprised me too).
King shared that:
"The sooner skin cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. The best way to ensure you detect skin cancer early is to get to know your skin and what’s normal for you. Any changes including new spots, changes in shape, colour or size should be checked by your GP."
At home, however, it’s a good idea to check out your own skin every three months. You should be examining your skin from top to toe and looking for “a new mole or spot,” “a mole that has changed in colour, shape or size,” “a spot that will not heal properly, is bleeding or itchy” or “a raised or lumpy spot”.
You can read a full guide here.
Now go and safely enjoy your summer!