Aussies, just love to sunbake – something about our ‘sun, sand, sea culture. But did you know that all that sun exposure has led to Australia having the highest rate of skin cancer in the world?
And whilst we’ve had variations of the Cancer Council’s ‘slip, slop, slap’ campaigns for around 40 years or more, our rates of skin cancer keep rising. So we thought we’d take a look at some of the most common misconceptions about sun exposure.
‘I tan naturally. So as long as I don’t burn, my skin will be fine.’
Many people long to have ‘bronzed’ skin and it comes ‘easily’ to them. However, just because it comes ‘naturally’ doesn’t mean that desire should come at the cost of your health. Your tan is caused by exposure to UVB rays (radiation), the same ones that cause sunburn, and can significantly damage your skin cells. In fact, tanning is your body’s way of trying to protect you from the sun, but the damage is sustained all the same. Please slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat and if you must be tanned – there are a myriad of sun-free ways to have your skin ‘glow’ (bronzer, fake tan, spray tan, etc).
‘I’ve already applied sunscreen.’
A single application of sunscreen isn’t a one-stop fix-all solution for spending time in the sun. Maintaining a UV barrier between your skin and the sun means adhering to the 2-hour rule – reapply your sunscreen every two hours in order for it to work as efficiently as possible. And if you’re already starting to go pink – go inside or find some significant shade – you’re burnt already. Applying more sunscreen at that point won’t help.
‘I’ve put on sunscreen – now I’m going for a swim.’
Your sunscreen may be waterproof, but that doesn’t mean you can go into the water straight after application. You must wait at least 15 minutes for the sunscreen to dry and work its sun protection magic before leaping into the sea/pool/sprinkler.
‘The sky’s cloudy today – I won’t need sunscreen.’
Even though the sun may not be shining brightly, skin damage and skin cancer are still very real possibilities, as UVA rays (the type that cause melanoma) are still seeping through the clouds. As an Aussie, consider everyday, an opportunity to wear sunscreen.
‘It’s just a sunburn, it will be gone tomorrow or the day after.’
Sunburn is a visual demonstration of damage that your skin has sustained – both short term and longer term. If you have a sunburn, your skin’s cells have been damaged. According to the Australian Cancer Council, sunburn is the cause of 95% of occurrences of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer there is.
‘I have darker skin – so I’m ‘protected’ from skin cancer.’
Although it’s true that darker skin has a higher concentration of melanin – and thus better protection from the sun – no-one is impervious to skin cancer. In fact, rates of melanoma increase through exposure to UVA radiation – the kind that doesn’t cause skin to obviously go ‘red’. Plus, melanoma in its early stages can be even harder for you to pick up just by looking at your skin – so if you’ve thought No6, please book a skin check with a professional now.
I used to use a tanning bed, but that was ages ago, so I’m all good now.
Tanning beds are now illegal in Australia for good reason. Unfortunately, the damage that you likely caused to your skin wasn’t just short-term. Statistics show that people who first use a tanning bed before the age of 35 are 75% more likely to get melanoma. If that was you and you haven’t had a skin cancer check, please, please, go and get your skin checked asap.
If you’ve bought into any of these myths at any point in the past, you might want to consider getting a skin cancer check. You can book an appointment by calling us on 999 0336 (Northern Beaches) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City) or you can drop us a note via the form below.
Don't delay. Book your appointment today.
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Either way, it might be the best thing you do for yourself today.