There’s no doubt about it – here in Australia it can get hot during the summer! It’s important to keep on top of your sun-safe habits during the sunny months (and even in the winter months as well), to avoid heat-related illness and disease; like dehydration, heatstroke, sunburn, and skin cancer.
Australia is known as the ‘skin cancer capital of the world’; over 2000 Australians die each year from skin cancer, but surveys have found that the proportion of adults actively employing sun-safe habits dropped from 19% to 17% from 2014 to 2016, and continues to decline. There are three main types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, which is regarded as the deadliest form of skin cancer.
As children, we’ve grown up with the classic ‘slip, slop, slap’ slogan (it’s even grown to include ‘seek’ and ‘slide’) – and it’s a great starting point to keep in mind, but with temperatures reaching the high 40's in some parts of the country, now more than ever it’s vital to create long-lasting sun safe habits for you and your family all year round.
Studies have discovered that more than 2.7 million Australians get sunburnt over a weekend. Sunburn is caused by skin cells in trauma, and is extremely dangerous; sunburn causes around 95% of melanomas – the deadliest form of skin cancer. You may think that slopping on some sunscreen in the morning will protect you from harm, but the reality is that we need to apply 30+ or higher sunscreen, every 2 hours (or more frequently if you’re swimming or engaging in strenuous activity), in order to stay safe from sunburn through the day. Make sure to apply the Sunscreen about 20 minutes before leaving the house or getting in the water to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Keep in mind that all sunscreens are not created equal. In this day and age of health and eco-awareness, try to avoid creams made with the ‘awful 8’ – Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, PABA (Aminobenzoic Acid), enzacamene, octisalate, homosalate, and avobenzone. These chemical ingredients are known to be toxic for ocean environments, and aren’t too good for your skin either!
Sunscreen may be a vital aide in the war against sunburn, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all in protecting yourself against harm. Alongside the 30+, make sure you slip into some sun-safe clothing to help shield yourself from those dangerous UV rays throughout the day. Wearing the correct attire for the Australian summer is especially important for younger children and babies, who are more susceptible to harm from the sun when playing outside or swimming in the pool or at the beach. Make sure to keep your whole family safe by enforcing proper sun-safe habits from an early age – your children will thank you for it!
Protective clothing includes long-sleeve shirts, wide-brimmed, bucket or legionnaire-style hats, and sunglasses that comply with Australian UV standards – after all, melanomas don’t care about fashion.
Protect Yourself Outside
The best way to keep yourself protected from the sun’s harm is to just stay out of the sun in general! Stepping into the sunshine is important for your daily Vitamin D needs, but it’s wise to keep inside, or in the shade during the hottest time of the day (this is generally from 10am to 3pm). Studies have found that around 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times a week, of unprotected sun exposure of the face, arms, and hands outside of these times is enough to provide the recommended amount of Vitamin D for the average adult. If possible, having your car windows tinted is another great way to reduce sun exposure, especially for those who have to drive for a living.
As always, it’s important to keep in mind that if you notice any changes in your skin, such as new moles, or moles that change in size or colour, or any concerns at all, it’s best to visit your regular GP for a check – it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to skin cancer.