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Facilitator: It appears that even Wolverine is not immune from this very common condition. Dr Ian Katz is one of Australia’s leading experts in skin cancer prevention, detection, treatment and education and he has established the Southern Sun Skin Cancer Clinics about 11 years ago which has now developed into Australia’s largest independent group of skin cancer clinics with 14 clinics throughout Australia and I am delighted to say he is on the line.
Good evening Ian.
Ian Katz: Hi, how are you?
Facilitator: Very well thanks mate, and yourself?
Ian Katz: Very well thank you.
Facilitator: Excellent. Well, look let’s talk about skin cancer because it’s so common. How many people in Australia actually suffer from skin cancer?
Ian Katz: Well, believe it or not, more than 50 per cent of Australians will eventually get skin cancer it is believed, so it’s an extremely – in fact it’s the most common cancer in Australia.
Facilitator: Right, so who actually gets it?
Ian Katz: People who have Anglo-Saxon Celtic type skin are most at risk of skin cancer and as you get older you are more at risk but essentially anyone who has a significant amount of sun exposure can get skin cancer.
Facilitator: Right, so it’s an extremely common thing and I am just sitting here looking at my friend David Prior here across from me…
David Prior: Oh, yeah, that’s my skin.
Facilitator: …and you should see David’s complexion and I’ve already had my skin cancer. What happened to me Ian was that I played soccer and squash until I was 52 and despite them destroying my knee, I always used to put sunscreen everyone apart from the bridge of my nose and have a guess where I got the skin cancer.
Ian Katz: Yeah, that’s the thing and people – and I saw Hugh Jackman pushing sunscreen but remember that – that the problem with sunscreen is that people don’t use enough sunscreen. You are supposed to use about a teaspoon of sunscreen on each part of the body so essentially you should use about 5ml times maybe seven or eight so you should like 40ml of sunscreen every time you apply sunscreen.
Facilitator: Hang on, did you say 40ml?
Ian Katz: 40ml, yes.
Ian Katz: Yeah and the problem is with sunscreen is people don’t put enough sunscreen on. So, you know, down the beach if you have like a 120ml bottle of sunscreen you should be really be using most of the bottle per person and there is no way that most Australians do that.
Facilitator: We were chatting off air before this and one of the things I found quite astounding, because I must say, we look at the use by date on food but there is a bit of a use by date on sunscreen as well.
Ian Katz: Absolutely. I mean certainly in our house we’ve got like five or six bottles of sunscreen and they gradually go out of date and when they’re out of date they can be pretty much useless. I found a bottle that we were trying to sell in one of our clinics that was out date, so you just need to be so careful about the use by date of sunscreens as well.
Facilitator: Absolutely. Because all you need is one really bad sunburn and that can be enough to spark off a cancer can’t it.
Ian Katz: Yeah and the problem if you are using 30 plus or 50 plus sunscreen and you don’t put enough on it is equivalent to using maybe a 5 or 4 sunscreen so essentially you are probably only getting 10 percent of the effectiveness.
Facilitator: You see this is a message that I don’t think is being pushed enough. I think people just feel if they put a little bit of sunscreen on well they’re fine and I really think this is so important, probably one of the most important things I’ve heard said about prevention of skin cancer. We just need to use more sunscreen. I mean 40ml when you are out in the sun, that’s a lot of sunscreen.
Ian Katz: Yeah, you do but keep in mind though that sunscreen is only one part of the thing you do. I mean the most important thing you can really do with skin cancer actually is stay out of the skin totally. You know, then cover up as much as possible and sunscreen is sort of the last thing you do when you can’t stay out of the sun and cover up as much as possible. So don’t forget the first two.
Facilitator: Right, yeah, I mean of course I think it’s important to do that but unfortunately this is Australia and most of us like to spend our summers down by the beach and that’s one of the big issues of course. Look, just on that, what about the standard beach umbrella, how much sun protection do you get from that?
Ian Katz: No, it’s actually really good. Beach umbrellas are – again they have a standard and they actually protect you pretty well but keep in mind when you’re on a beach and you’re with the white sand and the water there’s a huge amount of reflection as well and you can get pretty much 30 or 40 per cent of your sun exposure from reflection as well so don’t only think that just because you’re there under the umbrella that you’re going to get fully protected, you won’t.
Facilitator: Well, it happened to me. I went to the cricket last year. I was sitting up in the stand and I was out of the sun and I went home and my son in law said, you’ve got some sunburn there today. You out in the sun? And I said I wasn’t out in the sun at all and I peeled for the next few days, it was just really dreadful.
Ian Katz: Absolutely. Well reflection is really bad as well.
Facilitator: So, okay. For those of us who are getting beyond a certain age, say the age of 35 say, how often should we be getting checked?
Ian Katz: Well you should probably start getting your skin checked every year. What was quite interesting with Hugh Jackman for example is first of all he’s come out during National Skin Cancer Awareness Week so it’s really good. It’s not good that he had skin cancer but it’s good that he’s come out this week. The second thing is he had a spot on his nose which his wife brought up. Now that’s very common actually that the lady or the partner gets the man to come to have his skin checked. Third, of course it’s November which is all about men’s health and one thing that men are really bad at is getting their skin checked so we should push in November, we should push men to get their skin checked as well.
Facilitator: The other important thing there is really you can only see half your body anyhow.
Ian Katz: Absolutely. Even if you come in and have your skin checked at a skin cancer clinic or get your GP to get your skin checked, you’ve got to keep an eye on your skin or someone’s got to keep an eye on your skin throughout the rest of the year. You’ve got to know what things to watch out for and come and see us or see your GP or dermatologist if there are any concerns.
Facilitator: Well I think it’s so important that you get an expert to have a look at your skin because what you might think is okay might be actually not.
Ian Katz: Yes, absolutely and often people will come in with a spot on their left arm which they think is a concern and we’ll say, no that’s actually nothing it’s just an aging spot or something like that and we’ll say well just let’s give you a full skin check and the chances are we’re going to find something else on their left arm or their back. Most people don’t know what’s happening on their back.
Facilitator: So, of course, short of having things cut out, what treatments are we using now for skin cancers or say some pre-cancerous lesions?
Ian Katz: There are quite a few topical treatments you can use nowadays. You don’t have to have things cut out. Obviously the earlier you catch them, the more likely that the topical creams like, can I mention brand names?
Facilitator: Of course you can.
Ian Katz: Efudix, Aldara or even freezing things. So you can actually treat things early with topical creams before you even need to have them cut out.
Facilitator: But I think the real message here, you must get to things early.
Ian Katz: Absolutely, the earlier you catch skin cancer the better your chance of them cured. Absolutely.
Facilitator: Okay. So there are a lot people listening to this, we’re going into summer, as you say it’s National Skin Cancer Awareness Week. How can people find out more about your clinics and what you’re doing?
Ian Katz: Well, we’re Southern Sun Skin Cancer Clinics. You can go to southernsun.com.au. You can obviously go to the National Cancer Council. If they want to go to southernsun.com.au they can click on the first available appointment to make an appointment on line straight away.
Facilitator: So you can make an online appointment through first available, so that’s firstavailable.com.au?
Ian Katz: Yeah, with 1st Available. It’s a new online booking service that’s really handy for patients.
Facilitator: Okay. Now for the, shall we say the dinosaurs amongst us who don’t have an internet, is there is a phone number people can ring?
Ian Katz: Sure, in Sydney if you can call one of our clinics, for example in Hornsby it is 029 4825400 and that’s the Hornsby clinic but they will give you the number of any of our other clinics.
Facilitator: Okay. So, 94825400.
Ian Katz: Absolutely.
Facilitator: And you can get any clinics around that. Well look, Ian this has been wonderful information and I think very timely with summer just around the corner and it seems like it’s going to be a very hot summer, so some really important messages. I think the best one for me is that we need 40ml of sunscreen every time we apply it. That’s really – I haven’t heard that one before and I think it’s a really important message. So, Ian Katz from Southern Sun Skin Cancer Clinics, I’d like to thank you so much for being on the show tonight.
Ian Katz: No worries enjoy the rest of your summer.
Facilitator: Thank you.
Ian Katz: Thanks. Bye.
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