Like many of us, Matt Kean was a busy, hardworking family man who let life get in the way of his regular skin checks. That was until skin cancer stopped him in his tracks.
At the age of 38, he was shocked to discover that the mole he had been ignoring for over a month was indeed cancerous, spreading to his lymph nodes, resulting in stage 4 cancer. With a prognosis of only a decade, Mr Kean was left wondering what might have been different if he had just gotten his mole checked out the moment it turned suspicious.
Waiting until the last minute...
This is a story we hear all too often as skin cancer professionals, where patients with high-risk factors such as fair skin, red hair, a family history of cancer or an active life spent in the sun, have left their skin checks to the last minute resulting in devastating consequences.
Mr Kean had fallen into the trap of only applying sunscreen on sunny days and even forgoing a hat when the weather was overcast. A few hours of doing this per week while you watch a soccer game or cook a BBQ, and you could be subjecting your skin to unseen dangers.
So, what are the risk factors you should look out for? And how can you best protect yourself? We will discuss these queries and more as we help you to avoid letting life get in the way of your skin health any longer.
The Top 8 Skin Cancer Risk Factors:
Nobody is immune from the risk of developing skin cancer, however, certain personal characteristics may place you at greater risk, including:
- Fair skin colour
- Skin that burns, freckles, or reddens in the sun
- Blue or green eyes
- Blonde or red hair
- Many moles and freckles
- A family history of skin cancer
- Previous history of skin cancer
- You are over 50
Whether you have the above risk factors or not, reducing your exposure to UV rays can keep your skin healthy and reduce your chance of developing skin cancer.
In Australia, the UV rating is within a high range for most of the year. Our position near the equator along with our elliptical orbit around the sun and our axial tilt ensure that we are closer to the sun than the Northern Hemisphere during summer, placing our UV index around 10-14 for a good portion of the year.
The skin is at risk when the UV rating is at 3 or above, meaning all Australians should be religious about their sun protection.
The 5 S’s Explained…
It’s an iconic phrase that many Australians have grown up with – slip slop slap seek & slide – but do you truly know what it means?
While many people born after 1980 featured slip slop slap as some of their first words, a survey of over a thousand people discovered that only 33% knew there were two more additions to the phrase. The Cancer Council are the experts responsible for teaching young Australians to slip on a shirt, slop on a hat and slap on some sunscreen, with the campaign still running strong over 40 years later.
The chair of the Cancer Council National Skin Cancer Committee, Heather Walker, insists that the final two S’s – seek and slide – are just as important as their predecessors, with modern research resulting in greater tools for protection.
The World Health Organisation reports that up to 20% of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation. Research also suggests that overexposure may result in overall macular degeneration and can be linked to pterygium, a growth that can result in reduced vision, inflammation of the cornea and cancer of the eye. Simply sliding on some sunscreen can protect both the delicate skin around the eyes and the eye itself from harm.
The major cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV rays. Good quality shade can reduce UV exposure by up to 75%, making it one of the easiest ways to protect yourself against the sun.
Good quality shade should be comfortable to use in all seasons and should protect the users from both direct and indirect sources of UV rays. Shade can be natural, including dense trees close to the ground, or built such as stand-alone, portable or add on structures. The shade should be positioned in such a way that it will provide protection during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest and the UV rays are most intense.
Don’t Delay – Be Certain with Sun Doctors
The case study of this blog, Mr Matt Kean, is a schoolteacher who spends hours in the sun year-round. With many complex risk factors such as fair skin, red hair and multiple moles, Mr Kean knew to implore only one of the S’s religiously – slapping on sunscreen – however, wasn’t consistent with the rest of the guidelines.
He is now committed to spreading the word about how important each rule is to follow, encouraging young Australians to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide to give them the best chance of avoiding skin cancer.
At Sun Doctors, we believe that prevention is always better than a cure, and it begins with annual skin checks.
Skin cancer is highly preventable and incredibly treatable if caught early. UV from the sun is responsible for up to 95% of skin cancers, according to the Cancer Council, and by following the simple guidelines listed above, you will have a greater chance of avoiding a similar fate as Mr Kean.
The team at Sun Doctors' skin cancer clinics are committed to your long-term skin health and safety so you can enjoy the comfort of our sunny country with peace of mind. A quick, easy, and non-intrusive skin check is the only way to be certain.
Click here to book your appointment online for a clinic near you or give our team a call on 13 SKIN (13 75 46) to find out more.