According to the Australian Cancer Council, skin cancer is mainly caused by an exposure to UV radiation, which is emitted by the sun. And, before tanning salons were banned in Australia, some people also received unhealthy dosages of UV radiation from tanning beds.
If you are fair skinned, have light eyes and hair, or have a family history of skin cancer, you will have to pay special attention to preventative measures to protect yourself from the sun. However, all Australians should safeguard themselves, as skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in Australia.
What is UV radiation and how can it harm me?
UV stands for ultraviolet, and it describes light emitted by the sun that we cannot see. Unlike infrared radiation, which is also outside of the visible spectrum but is felt as heat, UV radiation cannot be felt in any way. That’s why you can get a sunburn even on a cold or cloudy day.
UV radiation can damage your DNA, which can deactivate important safeguards in your cells that keep them from growing uncontrollably (and skin cancer is basically the uncontrolled growth of damaged skin cells). Usually, your body would make sure to get rid of skin cells that have been damaged, but with tumours, these cells can proliferate and, if left untreated, eventually spread through your body and attack other organs, too.
How can I prevent skin cancer?
The best prevention, according to the Australian Cancer Council, is protecting your skin and avoiding intense UV radiation as much as possible. Just remember to “Slip, Slop, Slap”! Slip on some protective clothing, slop on at least 35 ml of sunscreen and slap on a hat. But there’s also “Seek and Slide” – seek some shade and slide on sunglasses to protect your eyes as well. The earlier you can protect yourself from skin cancer, the better.
Our experts at SunDoctor further recommend avoiding the sun altogether between 11am and 3pm – in Australia, the level of UV radiation will almost always be harmful in those hours. Make sure that the hat you choose has a wide brim or other features that reliably cover your neck and ears. For your protective clothing, it’s best to wear something with long sleeves and a collar – remember, UV radiation can be high on cold days, too.
The good news is that all of these measures, together with early skin cancer detection schemes, have reduced the mortality rates for all types of skin cancer, even aggressive melanomas.
Make an appointment with the capable team at SunDoctors today for a full skin check. We look forward to meeting you.