There is just a week left of summer, but the hot Australian sun continues long after February is over. We have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and this year thousands of Australians will die from the disease.
Check your knowledge with these skin cancer myths so you can protect yourself all year round.
Myth 1: Tanning in a solarium is safer than tanning in the sun.
There is nothing safe about a tan, no matter where you get it from. However, devices like tanning beds actually emit up to four times more ultraviolet radiation than the sun. UV radiation damages your skin cells and leaves them susceptible to cancer, so tanning in a solarium increases your risk of developing deadly skin cancers more so than the natural sun.
Myth 2: I need to go out in the sun without sunscreen to get vitamin D.
Many Australians are deficient in vitamin D, and certain groups – including elderly people, obese people and people with dark skin – are at a higher risk of deficiency. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and overall good health. However, we only need about 10 minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun each day to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Once your body has enough vitamin D, it cannot absorb any more, so staying out in the sun has no additional health benefits. Since every minute in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer, you can adopt safer methods of reaching your daily intake through supplements and vitamin D-fortified foods. Click here to learn more about finding the right balance.
Myth 3: A few sunburns aren’t bad.
Research shows that just five sunburns during childhood is enough to cause skin cancer later in life. Unfortunately, sun damage caused during our younger years often doesn’t show its true effects until adulthood, when most skin cancers are diagnosed. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the sunshine, but every sunburn – even if it’s infrequent – damages your skin cells and boosts your cancer risk.
Myth 4: I apply sunscreen correctly.
Did you know that you should apply several tablespoons of sunscreen every day? A broad-spectrum sunscreen should be liberally applied thirty minutes before you go outside and reapplied every two hours, regardless of what the label says. You should reapply sunscreen even more frequently if you are sweating, swimming or using a towel. And sunscreen should be applied even on cold or cloudy days, because UV rays cannot be seen or felt, and are present even if the sun doesn’t seem so bad.
Myth 5: Skin cancer isn’t a big deal.
Skin cancer makes up 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers. Every year, thousands Australians die from melanoma, and 800,000 Australians are treated for one or more skin cancers. If caught early, skin cancer can be successfully treated. But if left too late, it can spread to other organs such as the brain, lungs or lymph nodes, and cause death. Getting a skin cancer removed leaves a life-long scar and even permanent disfigurement. Learn more about the risks of skin cancer.
The best practice is to take steps to prevent skin cancer and not take the risk. Early detection and treatment save lives, so it’s very important to monitor your skin and watch for changes in a mole’s size, shape or colour, and get regular professional skin checks.