Summer in Australia means more time outside at the beach, at the park, or on walks and hikes. It also means more time exposed to the sun’s harsh UV rays. Summer is the best time to review your knowledge of skin cancer risks.
Do you know your risk of developing melanoma or other skin cancers? Do you know your primary risk factors?
According to the AIHW – The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare – “Skin cancers account for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australians each year”.
While melanoma and other skin cancers affect a huge number of Australians per year, treatments can be hugely successful if the cancer is caught early.
Certain factors can substantially alter your chances of developing many types of skin cancers; some we’re able to control, and others we’re not. The more you know about skin cancer, the more control you have in reducing your risks and detecting warning signs early on.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
The risk factors associated with skin cancer vary between different types, however, most of them share several similar risk factors. You have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers if you have:
- Physical characteristics such as light or fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue and green eyes, or any other fair feature;
- Skin that naturally or easily reddens, burns, or becomes painful when in the sun;
- Many moles or freckles. Certain types of moles are at a high risk of developing skin cancer. If you have moles, you should have them checked out by a doctor who specializes in skin cancer checks and treatments.
- Repeated and severe sunburns, especially during childhood – Related Blog – How To Treat Sunburn;
- Repeated and consistent exposure to the sun without the use of sunscreen;
- Used a tanning bed;
- Personal history of melanoma or other skin cancer. If you’ve already had skin cancer, you’re at a high risk of developing it again;
- Family history of melanoma or other skin cancers – the closer the relation, the higher the risk factor.
- Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals;
- Living in or visiting high UV index areas, areas with less protective o-zone, or areas at high altitudes;
Other Risk Factors
- Weakened immune system;
- Male gender;
- Taking medications that increase skin sensitivity or make it easier to sunburn;
- Age – older people are at a higher risk as they’ve had more sun exposure, but skin cancer still accounts for over half of all cancers in younger people.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
It is extremely important to protect yourself from the sun at any time, but especially during the summer when the UV (Ultra-Violet) light index is highest. It’s important to remember that UV light reflects off of other surfaces including cement, sand, and water.
While you can’t control your past experiences or genetic risk factors, you can minimize exposure to harmful UV rays by practicing these sun smart tips to protect your skin this summer:
- Always use sunscreen;
- Wear UVA/UVB sunglasses;
- Go for regular skin checks with your doctor;
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat;
- Stay in the shade;
- Stay hydrated;
- Avoid the sun during the middle of the day;
- Be mindful of certain medicines.
The best defense against skin cancer is prevention. Performing regular skin checks and having your doctor perform a full skin cancer check can detect any warning signs early enough to be very effectively treated.
If you have any moles or spots on your skin that look suspicious, schedule an appointment with your Warrawong medical centre doctor immediately for a comprehensive examination and assessment.