The importance of skin checks and protecting yourself from the sun this summer

The warmer weather is here, and for many of us that means more time spent enjoying the great outdoors. Queensland is known for its fantastic weather, but sadly it’s also known for being the “skin cancer capital of the world”. Up to 60% of Australians will have a skin cancer at some point in their life. While most of these are non-life-threatening, 1/1000 Australians will develop a potentially life-threatening melanoma in their lifetime.

Stay safe this summer by following the general advice below, and please don’t forget to come and see us for a skin check. We recommend an annual skin check for at risk people from the age of 25 and all adults from age 40. If you have never had a skin cancer check before or if you notice any changes to your skin in between skin checks, do not delay booking an appointment. It is a simple step, and it could save your life. At your appointment we will look for skin cancers and provide you with information about what to look out for.  We can also perform minor surgery and procedures where required. Book your appointment here👉🏼

A simple guide to checking your own skin is available from this website – your appointment we will look for skin cancers and provide you with information about what to look out for.  We can also perform minor surgery and procedures where required.

Here are some commonly asked questions:

Are skin cancers really that serious? 

Skin cancer is serious. While it’s true that survival rates for melanoma and other skin cancers are relatively high when you compare them to other cancers, it’s still important to catch them early.  One in 20 cancer deaths in Queensland are due to melanoma, and it is still quite a common, serious condition that affects a lot of people in our state.

How can I reduce my risk of skin cancer?

Being exposed to ultraviolet light (UV) is enough to cause skin cancer, even if you’re not getting burnt (think driving in your car, for example).  Fortunately, being smart in the sun is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. More than 2000 Australians die from the disease each year and it is almost entirely preventable.

A layer of sunscreen will help, although it’s not a magic barrier to protect against harmful rays. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to minimise your time in the sun in peak UV periods. And if you do have to go into the sun, wear sunscreen, a broad brimmed hat, protective clothing and sunglasses, and keep to the shade wherever possible.

The Cancer Council advises these five simple steps, to prevent yourself from getting too much sun exposure.

  1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  2. Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  3. Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
  4. Seek shade.
  5. Slide on some sunglasses – making sure they meet Australian standards.

But what about  Vitamin D?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that just under one in four (23%) of Australian adults are vitamin D deficient. Rates of deficiency were shown to be lower in summer (14%) and higher in winter (36%).

It seems a bit contradictory – but while UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer, it’s also the best source of vitamin D. Studies have shown that prolonged sun exposure will not increase vitamin D levels – the prolonged exposure to UV can increase the risk of skin cancer. Studies have shown that shorter periods of sun exposure, while increasing the amount of skin exposed (so say your arms, legs, etc) is a more effective way to increase vitamin D levels than increasing the time spent outdoors.

For most people, just a few minutes a day of exposure to the Queensland sun is enough due the year-round high UV levels, which can easily be achieved with day to day activities.

More specifically, according to Cancer Council, the amount of sunlight required for adequate vitamin D levels depends on a range of factors including UV level (and therefore the season), length of exposure and an individual’s skin type. The ideal times to get Vitamin D while avoiding high UV is before 10am or after 4pm.

You can check local UV levels by downloading the Cancer Council’s free SunSmart mobile app.

  • To read about this more thoroughly and determine the right amount of exposure for you, here is a useful guide.

For babies, and those under 12 months old with sensitive skin, here is a great article to read by Queensland Health about how to keep your baby safe from the sun. Please seek further advice for your individual circumstances, but as a general guide – if the UV is 3 or above sun protection is a priority and you’ll generally get enough vitamin D through a few minutes of typical day-to-day activity. If the UV is below 3, sun protection is not usually recommended. Going outdoors for daily exercise also assists the body to product vitamin D.

Sources and further reading: