“Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking and
When she passes, each one she passes goes “ah”…”

Yes, they’re the opening words from the immensely popular 60’s hit, The girl from Ipanema. And although everything 60s-70’s is currently ‘new’ again, a suntan on someone young and lovely most definitely is not.

Back in the 1930’-70’s we didn’t know any better – a tan was thought to be ‘healthy’ – a healthy ‘glow’. In fact, although it seems incredible now, people were even exposed, on purpose, to ultra-violet light in order to ‘improve’ their health if they weren’t getting enough sunshine or didn’t ‘tan’. And that’s why we’re seeing increasing numbers of people with skin cancer – too much accumulated exposure to UVA and UVB rays in people’s youth.

Now strong scientific research has shown us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tanning, however it is obtained, is dangerous – for everyone. But, particularly for young people.

As we discussed last post, Protecting your children from skin cancer, a tan is really DNA damage taking place in the skin’s cells. The younger one is when this damage happens, the greater the risk of that damage turning into skin cancer some 20-30 years later. That might be 35 or 46 – the prime of your children’s lives, when they’re likely to have families of their own.

So what do you do if you have a young and lovely teenager in your home, who is intent on looking ‘healthy’ and sporting a tan?

For teens – it’s all about how they look. And that’s a good thing. It means they care.

So what can you do to persuade them to head a different direction?

  1. You can role model good sun safety yourself. Slip (on a tight weave shirt), slop (on enough sunscreen to fill a shot-glass), slap (on a hat that protects your ears and neck), slide (on your sunnies to protect your eyes) and seek shade in the middle of the day. And get a regular skin cancer check up. Kids, even teens, model what they see.
  2. Next, tell them the results of ‘tanning’ are going to matter to them much sooner than they think. And if they don’t heed the advice now, they will regret it. I’m sure you can think of a friend or acquaintance that still, despite the warnings, likes to tan or liked to tan in their teens and 20s. Have your teen really look at the skin of those people at 20, 30, 40 and beyond and compare it with someone who actively practices sun safety. Get them to report back to you what they noticed. And have a discussion. They’ll find there is a world of difference between someone who’s used sunscreen compared with someone who hasn’t. Especially in the cleavage and the face where the skin is thin and shows the damage. Remind them to do it a couple of times and they’ll start noticing without you ever needing to say anything.
  3. Finally, you can show them some images of scars where skin cancers have been cut out – they are freely available on the internet (although try not to make it so scary, they think ‘that will never happen to me’).

Especially on the cleavage area, it’s hard for even the best surgeon not to leave a noticeable scar. And some skin cancers are so invasive, that scarring is the least of the patient’s problems. Getting rid of the cancer to save their life is the real deal, regardless of the scar it leaves behind and depending on where it is and how advanced the cancer is, they can be disfiguring.

And finally…tell them the good news

Fake tans are now so good regardless of your skin tone that that even a skin cancer doctor can’t tell any longer unless we’re looking at your skin through a dermatoscope. Only then can we tell the tan is only on the surface or outermost layer of the skin. Just make sure they exfoliate first to prevent blotchiness and moisturise after to keep their skin supple and to extend the life of the colour.

Looking after your skin now is cheap. It’s a lot less expensive to practice sun safety than it is to have skin cancer cut out. And that’s not even thinking about the vastly increased budget for time off work, recovery, chemotherapy, life extension medication – and frankly the emotional cost required if a melanoma spreads to other parts of the body.

So please, whether they’re your children, your grandchildren, your god-children, nephews, nieces or the kids next door or down the road, you owe it to them to at least start a conversation.

And if you’ve got a spot that might need to be checked or you’ve been sunburned at some point in your life and haven’t had your skin checked by a skin cancer Dr yet (or for a while), set a great example for the teens in your life and schedule a skin cancer check.

You can call us on 9999 0336 (Northern Beaches clinic) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City clinic) or you can put your details in the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly with our next available appointment.

Northern Beaches

Building Q1, Level 2, Suite 9, 4 Daydream St, Warriewood

Appointment availability:
 Monday – Friday
Appointment times: 8.30am-5.00pm
Phone: 02 9999 0336
Fax: 02 9999 0337

Sydney City

L16, 109 Pitt St, Sydney

Appointment availability: Mondays & Thursday Only
Appointment times: 8.30 am - 5:30 pm
Phone: 02 9223 1608