Author: Dr Victor Roseverne, a GP at Kingscliff Health medical and allied health centre in Kingscliff, NSW.
Summer is the season for long days spent basking in the beautiful Aussie sun. However, as the weather warms up UV levels can wreak havoc on exposed skin. Without proper sun protection, it means exposing ourselves and our beautiful kids to very high levels of UV radiation – that’s the stuff in the sunlight that damages the DNA in our skin cells, potentially leading to skin cancer.
Whilst no-one is immune to developing skin cancer, the pigmentation (melanin) of our skin assists in its prevention. Melanin provides skin cells with some UV protection, and scientists hypothesise it may also help repair the damage UV radiation causes to skin cell DNA. For these reasons, those of us with fair skin (less melanin) are at increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Apart form discussing the main risk factor for developing skin cancer, I wanted to share some easy practical ideas I feel will help you keep up your fun healthy summer activities while reducing your risk of skin cancer later in life:
- Try to apply on dry clean skin at least 15 minutes before going into the sun or getting wet. Of course, trying to get in on your kids is easier said than done. My kids can be very uncooperative!
- You also need to reapply it every 2-3 hrs at least, especially if you’re in the water.
- A physical barrier such as rash shirts is always more effective than sunscreen.
- It’s a good idea to learn and appreciate your skin type as well as your family history of skin cancers. Having this knowledge will help you know if you have an increased risk so you can then modify your lifestyle accordingly.
- Early morning bike rides or late afternoon swims in the creek are good ways to reduce your skin cancer risk as the sun is most intense between 10am and 2pm.
- Keep an eye on you and your families skin. Let them know about any lumps or spots you’re concerned about as they may not be able to see them.
- Having comprehensive skin checks or seeing a doctor about any lumps or spots you’re concerned about significantly reduces your risk of more complicated treatment later on.
I enjoy checking peoples skin as it’s such a vital health issue in Australia. However, often people ask about their skin at the end of a consult, which is not ideal, as doing a thorough skin check takes time, requiring a dedicated appointment. So if you have any skin spots you’d like checked out, please book an appointment especially for this, so we can give the appropriate attention to the health of your skin.
So with Summer here its a good idea to try and implement some risk reduction whilst enjoying some summertime fun and if you have any concerns about your skin, please consult your GP.
Dr Victor Roseverne is an experienced GP with areas of interest in skin cancer checks, skin cancer surgery, indigenous health, children’s health, and chronic disease management. Book an appointment online with Dr Victor Roseverne or call us on 02 6670 1400.
* The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. You must consult your doctor before acting on the information in this article, especially if you have concerns regarding health related issues for yourself and your family.