Health & Wellbeing

How to have a sun safe summer down under

We love a sunburnt country, but understanding how to stay safe in the sun and spot the early warning signs of skin damage is vital to your health.

Every Aussie knows that there’s no such thing as a “safe” tan - tanning and sunburn are both signs of skin damage which can lead to skin cancer like melanoma. The Australian Government reports that melanoma is estimated to be the 4th most common type of cancer in Australia as many as 14,320 Australians were diagnosed with melanoma in 2018 alone.

So the best idea for your skin is to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen. But if you are keen on achieving a summer glow, make sure you take care to avoid burning, and follow a few rules to make yourself as safe as possible:

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  • Wear sunscreen – although it seems counterintuitive, if you want to tan safely, find the right sunscreen and make sure to apply it correctly. It won’t stop you tanning, but it will increase the time you can spend in the sun without burning.
  • Tan in small doses – it is inevitable that you will be under the sun in Australia. However, rather than spending a whole day at the beach, tanning for half an hour to an hour at a time will help to reduce the damage to your skin.
  • Choose the right time – the UV index, which causes you to burn, is highest between 10am and 4pm, so limit your tanning time to outside these hours.
  • Protect your eyes – the skin around your eyes is very delicate, and your eyes themselves are vulnerable to sun damage, so pack your shades and hat on your trip.

When to go for a skin check

Regularly checking your skin for sun damage and the warning signs of melanoma is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle for Aussies, whether you’ve been working on your tan or not.

Regular self-checks on your skin every few months are the first step, especially during summer when you’ll get a lot more sun exposure. So take the time to learn how to perform a skin cancer check on yourself and keep an eye out for things like:

  • New spots you didn’t have before.
  • Spots that have changed shape or size
  • Spots that have changed colour
  • Spots that have become raised or bumpy

It’s a good idea to take a picture of major spots, so you can track their appearance over the months – relying on your memory could mean you miss a more subtle change.

If you identify any of these warning signs, make an appointment with your GP, a skin cancer clinic or dermatologist. It’s also worth making a skin check from your GP a regular part of your annual health check-up, because it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to skin cancer.

The information provided above is general information only and is not a substitute for advice from a qualified medical or other health professional. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health problem. Always consult your general practitioner or medical specialist when making decisions about your health.

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