girl eating watermelon with hat

Take cover and save your skin

It doesn’t matter if the day is hot or cold, sunny or cloudy – ultraviolet radiation is out there and it’s dangerous to your skin.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is often at extreme levels in Australia. That’s because of the sun’s angle to the Earth during our spring and summer. Over-exposure to UV radiation leads to sunburn. And sunburn leads to skin cancer.

Because of our high levels of UV radiation, we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. The most deadly skin cancer is melanoma – and 95% of melanomas are caused by sunburn.

Given we spend so much time in the great outdoors, it’s critical to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the sun, it just means you need to know how to play safely.

National Skin Cancer Action Week is the perfect time for you to revisit the Cancer Council’s SunSmart guidelines. More than 2000 Australians die from skin cancer each year. Protection and early detection are the keys to lowering this figure.

Sid the Seagull first came to our TV screens 35 years ago with his simple message: Slip! Slop! Slap! “It sounds a breeze when you say it like that,” he quipped. The dancing seagull with the catchy jingle is responsible for a dramatic shift in public attitude and behaviour towards skin protection.

From toddlers at the beach, to school children and people who work outdoors – we followed Sid’s simple message and became SunSmart.

  • Slip on a shirt – ideally protective clothing to most of your body.
  • Slop on some sunscreen – SPF30 or higher and water resistant is recommended. And there’s an art to how you apply it.
  • And slap on a hat – it should have a wide enough brim to shade your face, neck and ears.

These days Sid has a new jingle and another two tips to stay safe.

  • Seek shade ­– especially during the hours of 11am to 3pm in summer.
  • Slide on a pair of close-fitting, wrap-around sunglasses. Don’t forget about the kids – sunnies are just as important for them because long-term UV radiation can lead to eye complaints such as cataracts and cancers involving the eye.

Early detection of skin cancer is very important. It’s recommended that you become really familiar with your skin – or get your GP or a dermatologist to help you. Either you, or a skin specialist, should monitor changes in moles, freckles or lesions. You should also be on the look-out for any crusty skin that won’t heal properly.

Medicare will pay a rebate towards a GP visit for a skin check or a specialist dermatologist consultation if referred. Some health insurers – Defence Health is one – will pay a benefit under most combined hospital and extras cover for mole mapping (when you can’t claim a benefit from Medicare).

Remember, the link between melanoma and sunburn is undeniable. So stay SunSmart this summer. As Sid the Seagull says, “Have fun outside. But don’t get fried.”

Category: Family

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Article by: Defence Health