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Has the Pandemic Made Us Complacent About Our Skin Health?

Concerning statistics in the news...

The effects of the COVID 19 pandemic have been far-reaching, indiscriminating, and relentless.  In some way or another, everyone has been affected by it.  The effects have even reached the skin cancer medical community and their patients all over Australia. 

In recent news, it has been reported that the number of lesions being removed across the country has dropped by almost 90,000 since the start of the pandemic.  Medicare data shows that from January to September in 2020, the numbers have dropped by 59,000 skin lesion removals in comparison to the same period in 2019. Then in 2021 for the same dates, they have dropped by another 30,000.  The worry is that rather than these numbers being a reduction in the presence of skin cancer, it is instead that skin cancer is going undiagnosed. 

The Importance of Caring for Your Skin's Health

People are facing many uncertainties due to COVID 19, and doctors are concerned that people have forgotten or are underestimating the importance of skin checks and that this will lead to people requiring more invasive treatment later and could lead to more serious health complications. 

There are many reasons the pandemic could be stopping people from getting their skin checked.  Lockdowns and fear of catching the virus, for instance, has caused many people to choose to stay home instead of seeking medical care for things they may consider to be less important.  The danger with this, however, is that undiagnosed skin cancer can be life-threatening, with skin cancer responsible for the deaths of roughly 2000 Australians per year.      

Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health and Aged care addressed this situation recently saying, ‘“While we need to protect ourselves through vaccination from COVID-19, we also need to protect our skin from melanoma.”

Considering these concerning statistics of declining melanoma removals, and the long summer days Australian’s are enjoying right now, the Australian Government is working together with the Cancer Council Australia to raise national awareness of skin cancer and sun safety.  Just before Christmas, The Prime Minister announced a $10 million national awareness that will be similar in style to the iconic Sid from the 1980s and the Slip, Slop, Slap campaign.  Shared via free-to-air TV, digital and social media, outdoor advertising and radio stations, the campaign will be delivered country-wide. 

In the media release announcement, he stated, ‘…it’s important that we protect ourselves against the dangers of sun and that we all know exactly how to guard ourselves against skin cancer, with Australia having one of the highest rates of melanoma cancer in the world. The good news is skin cancer is avoidable. The new awareness campaign reminds Australians of how they can be UV aware and what simple actions they can take to protect against sunburn and skin cancer this summer.”

The message of slip, slop, slap has evolved since the campaign in the 1980s, however, to include ‘seek’ and ‘slide’. A similar version of Sid the Seagull can be found in children’s education materials, encouraging us all to follow the sun safety protection tips.

5 Sun Safety Protection Tips:

  1. Slip on clothing to create a barrier between you and the sun.  A long-sleeved swim shirt, for example, is a perfect way to protect your skin.
  2. Slop on sunscreen that is SPF30+ or higher, applying 20 minutes before going outside and reapplying it regularly.
  3. Slap on a hat that protects your head, face, neck and ears.
  4. Seek shade whenever you can, sitting under trees, or umbrellas to reduce your sun exposure.
  5. Slide on some sunglasses to protect your eyes. 

Skin cancer is the most common and most preventable type of cancer, but it is still estimated that 1,315 Australians died in 2021 due to the disease.  The hope is that by raising awareness, people will use prevention and safety methods to avoid skin cancer and remember to get their skin checked for early detection.

If you haven’t had a skin check recently, make sure to book yours in today and see one of our friendly doctors at your local SunDoctors clinic. Early detection is your best prevention against complications.  If you are concerned about your risk of COVID-19, contact your local SunDoctors clinic to talk to our friendly team and find out about the protocols and guidelines we are following to keep you safe.  Both your skin health and overall wellness are our utmost concern.  

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