When you cover things, they last longer. Same goes for you

Thursday 21 January, 2021

Our research tells us that men are great at protecting their loved ones and things they care about from damaging UV exposure. Children are very well protected and even the car, deck and barbeque get covered up. Most men know: if you cover something, it lasts longer. Unfortunately, they don’t always apply the same rules to themselves. 

Results of the 2019 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia™) found 79% of men surveyed agreed that if they regularly protect themselves from the sun, they can avoid skin cancer. 71% of men were aware that melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills more men than women each year.

However, less than half agreed that sun protection was part of their daily routine (49%) and less than one in three used sunscreen (29%) and stayed in the shade (30%) on summer weekends.

In short, men know what to do and why, but most still don’t.  

The Same goes for you SunSmart campaign funded by the Victorian Government has been developed to prompt men to re-think their approach when it comes to sun protection.

The TV-led campaign shows a dad protecting household items he cares about from harmful UV. His young son then points out the irony that he’s forgotten to protect his own skin.

Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention Division at Cancer Council Victoria said the campaign was designed to be relatable for men and to help them see how ironic it is to protect your children and your ‘stuff’ from damaging effects of UV but not your own skin. In particular, he hopes the message that it’s never too late to protect your skin stands out.

“Many men may not realise that sun protection is critical at any age, even if you think the damage was done early on in life. The risk of skin cancer can be significantly reduced by protecting your skin at any age,” Craig said.

55-year-old Warren Penna knows all too well the risks associated with too much UV. Growing up in Regional Victoria, Warren loved spending time in the sun. His love of the outdoors continued into adulthood working as a Horticulturist for over 25 years.

In 2017, Warren was diagnosed with a melanoma on his right arm. The melanoma was quickly removed with wide margins but unfortunately, in 2019, the melanoma came back. And this time it was stage 4 and had spread to his brain, liver and lungs.

“I thought to myself, this couldn’t be right, I’m a healthy person. But when I saw the scans and the size of the tumours I thought, wow, gosh … I was sure I was going to die.”

Warren has undergone multiple surgeries including brain surgery as well as a gruelling schedule of immunotherapy for the last 18 months. The toll the diagnosis and treatment has taken on Warren and his partner has been immense.

“For the best part of 18 months I felt like I was in limbo land and that I couldn’t plan for the future. I had to give up work and I spent most of my days at Peter Mac. I often contemplated by own mortality and the meaning of life.

“Every scan played hell with my mental health. My mind took me to some dark places that weren’t real. I had to try really hard not to bring everyone around me down on those days.

“Gregg (my husband) has been my rock through all this. He has suffered just as much as I have. This journey has certainly been a long, arduous one for all of us.”

After being forced to dig deep every day and face seemingly insurmountable challenges, Warren is doing well today.

“My melanoma is almost gone. Tumours on the lungs, liver and armpit are all gone. Only one small tumour to go. It may disappear or it may just remain stable. Either way it’s fantastic news. I didn’t think I’d make my next birthday this time last year. Miracles can happen.”

Warren is acutely aware that he’s one of the lucky ones and that many others with a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis are not as fortunate.

“If I could spare even one other person the colossal physical and emotional rollercoaster I’ve experienced I would. I stared death in the face and somehow came back from it. And to think this experience could’ve largely been avoided by using good sun protection.”

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. In Victoria in 2019, over 2,800 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma and 270 lost their lives to the disease. Sadly, twice as many men as women died from the disease that same year.

We’re urging men to give sun protection complacency the Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide and use five forms of sun protection when the UV is 3 and above. That’s Slip on protective clothing, Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brim hat, Seek shade and Slide on sunglasses.

If doing it for yourself isn’t enough of a reason,  think about the ones you love – and do it for them.

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