We instinctively do so many things to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Clipping on our seatbelts before driving, strapping on a helmet before going for a bike ride, wearing protective mitts before handling something hot and brushing our teeth to keep them free from tooth decay.
But what about the largest organ of the body – our skin?
Ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) is a danger that you can’t see or feel. Whether you’re enjoying a day at the beach, a BBQ with family and friends or a game of cricket, any time you go outside your skin is vulnerable. These harmful rays can cause unhealthy-looking, blotchy, wrinkled skin. And they have rocketed Australia to the unenviable position of number one skin cancer country in the world.
On average almost one person every minute will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer and more than one person an hour will develop the most deadly form of skin cancer – melanoma.
So how can we have fun in the sun and still protect our skin?
Sun safety: the facts
- Sun safety isn’t just for sunny days. Even on a cloudy day, all of the sun’s ultraviolet rays are present and damaging your skin.
- Ultraviolet rays reflect off surfaces such as water, sand and grass, trying to sneak through your skin’s defences.
- Sun damage adds up over time. Up to 80% of lifetime exposure occurring in the first 20 years of life.
- Keeping in the shade is just one step. Sitting out of the direct sun or wearing a wide brimmed hat provides less than total protection against ultraviolet radiation.
- There is no such thing as a safe tan. Your health matters more than looking tanned.
“Almost one person every minute will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer.”
How to protect your skin
Total skin protection in the sun is a package deal, often referred to as the five S’s:
1. Slip on sun protective clothing. Look for clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+ which is the maximum.
2. Slop on the sunscreen. An SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen, reapplied every 2 hours when outdoors and after swimming. For children and those with sensitive skin look for a chemical free sunscreen (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide).
3. Slap on a wide brimmed hat.
4. Seek shade. 80% of total ultraviolet radiation during summer is received between 10.00am – 3.00pm so this is the main time of the day to seek shade.
5. Slide on a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes. Look for Australian Standard AS1067 for maximum protection.
Visit Cancer Council Australia for more sun smart advice.