National Skin Care Action Week
It’s National Skin Cancer Action Week. A time to highlight the importance of early skin cancer detection and to use sun protection. Two out of three Australians will have a skin cancer removed by age 70. More than 2,000 Australians die every year from skin cancers. On top of this, the cost of treating skin cancer is increasing every year. The Cancer Council Australia estimates $1billion per year goes toward treating skin cancer.
People at higher risk of skin cancer:
- have fair skin
- had previous heavy sun exposure including episodes of sunburn and frequent outdoor tanning
- have had skin cancers
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Sun protection and skin cancer screening can help prevent skin cancer.
How you can prevent skin cancer
The high incidence of skin cancer in Australia is a result of everyday sun exposure. If you have Celtic ancestry with blue eyes and fair skin, your risk of skin cancer increases. Prolonged sun exposure results in premature ageing of your skin. Daily sun protection during spring and summer is vital. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has 2 wavelengths that affect people’s skin – UVA and UVB. UVA penetrates deep into your skin and isn’t blocked by window glass. UVB is the main cause of sunburn. Window glass can block UVB.
UVA and UVB radiation both contribute to:
- Premature ageing of the skin. This includes pigmentation, loss of elasticity and dry skin.
- Precancerous skin changes. This includes sunspots and actinic keratoses.
- Cancerous skin changes. This includes melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Up to 95% of skin cancers can treated with success if they’re detected early with skin cancer screening. Sun protection is an essential way to prevent skin cancers from developing. Reducing excessive exposure to the sun is key to sun protection.
The majority of skin cancers are preventable, using the following methods:
- Slip on sun protection (shirt, pants)
- Slop on some sunscreen (at least SPF 30+)
- Slap on a broad brimmed hat
- Seek shade
- Slide on sunglasses
To protect your skin from the sun, wear long sleeved clothing, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. Rash vests and wetsuits are ideal if you’re doing water activities like swimming. For infants and children, make sure they wear hats and avoid prolonged sun exposure. During the hot summer months, it’s important to avoid sun exposure during the middle of the day. The ultraviolet rays are most intense then.
The Australasian College of Dermatologists notes, “sunscreens help prevent the development of skin cancer including melanoma.” Sunscreens applied to your skin can reduce the ultraviolet radiation effect. They can be absorbent or reflectant. The reflectant sunscreens on the market include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They block UV from your skin. Some reflectant sunscreens can be a milky white appearance. absorb ultraviolet energy, stopping it being absorbed by your skin. Absorbent sunscreens absorb UVA, UVB radiation – or both. They are usually invisible when you apply them. The use of sunscreens (creams, lotions, mists, sprays or gels) should be on top of your physical protection. We suggest you choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that protects against UVA and UVB radiation. Your sunscreen should also be water resistant. For sunscreens to be effective, they must be applied liberally and regularly throughout the day.
Why you need to have regular skin checks with your doctor
National Skin Care Action Week also encourages people to routinely check their skin. While sun protection and using sunscreen every day is important, you must check your skin for changes every month. If you see any new or changing spots on your skin, it’s important to see your doctor immediately. Download the Cancer Council Australia’s “ABCD of melanoma protection” guide. Check the spots for:
- Changes in size
- Raised areas
- Pigmentation that can be dark or an irregular shape
- An irregular or asymmetrical border to the spot
Pay particular attention to the spots in areas of high sun exposure. This includes your arms, backs of hands, neck, face, calves and shins.
An annual skin check at a skin cancer screening clinic can give you peace of mind that your skin is okay. If you give yourself a regular skin check every month, you’ll be able to detect anything that looks suspicious.
With 90% of melanomas being curable, it’s important to detect them early. This will increase your chances of recovery. When your doctor performs a skin check they’ll use different techniques and tools. Your doctor is familiar with your medical and family history and any risk factors you may have.
They may be able to treat some skin cancers during your cancer screening. In some cases, they may refer you to a Dermatologist for a second opinion or for further treatment. A Dermatologist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating skin diseases, including skin cancers. Your regular GP needs to refer you to a Dermatologist. In some cases, Medicare covers part of the Dermatologist fees.
Put your mind at rest and get a skin check. Access Health & Community team of experienced doctors at our skin cancer screening clinic can perform skin checks. Book your appointment today.