Australian’s love their great outdoors, from a great summer barbeque to taking a dip in Bondi Beach or camping in a national park, when summer hits it’s hard to stay inside. This outdoor obsession comes with innumerable benefits, however, without proper precautions it can also be dangerous for our skin.

The Australian sun is strong and the rays that beat down on the continent have very high UV radiation levels. This makes the Australian rate of skin cancer amongst the highest in the world, with over 2000 deaths every year.

The good news is that there is a lot that people can do to protect themselves from the Australian sun and increase their chances of preventing the disease.

Practising proper sun protection is the first step to preventing skin cancer including the use of sunscreen, covering exposed skin and using a hat on high UV days.

Aside from skin protection, skin checks are vital to detecting cancer early and removing the affected piece of skin before it becomes dangerous. So how often should you get a skin check?

A professional check once a year for at risk individuals

People who are at an elevated risk of suffering from skin cancer should make it a habit to visit a skin cancer clinic once a year to have their skin checked by a specialist. At risk people include:

  • People with fair features such as red or blonde hair and pale to light brown skin are at higher risk of cancer than other body types
  • People who have a large amount of moles (over 100)
  • Those that have a family history of skin cancer
  • People who spend a long time in the sun, particularly if it is part of their profession
  • People who have suffered severe burns several times as children

Self-check every three months for everyone

Even if you are not an “at risk individual” you could still be affected by skin cancer. A self-check for skin cancer every three months can go a long way to catching potentially dangerous skin abnormalities early.

In fact, a professional check once a year risks skin cancer developing between checks, thus, being body aware and paying attention to your own moles is a key part of skin cancer prevention. – doesn’t make sense?
To perform your own skin check you will need good lighting and a hand held mirror. Pay attention to the size and shape own your moles and use the mirror to look at any hard to see places.

If you have a partner, family member or friend that you feel comfortable with it might be a good idea to have them check your skin with you.
You might wish to take photos of your skin to keep a record of potential growth. However, remember that if you see a mole that is suspicious, don’t wait, go to doctor immediately as melanoma can develop very quickly.