The sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. UV damage also causes sunburn, tanning, premature ageing and eye damage.
Skin cancer kills nearly 2,000 Australians each year – more than the national road toll – and two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
The good news is you can cut your risk of skin cancer by using good sun protection. It's never too late for prevention, whether you're six months or 60 years old.
Think UV not heat
UV radiation isn’t like the sun’s light or heat, which we can see and feel. That means we usually don’t notice the damage until it’s too late. The UV level can be as high on a cold or cloudy day as it is when it is a scorching hot day.
The free SunSmart app tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location and shows current UV levels. During the day's sun protection times, use all five SunSmart steps for the best level of protection.
- Slip on sun-protective clothing.
- Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every two hours.
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on sunglasses.
Checking for skin cancer
Most skin cancer can be successfully treated if it is found early. But without treatment, skin cancer can be deadly.
Get to know your skin and what looks normal for you to help you find changes earlier. Check all of your skin, not just sun-exposed areas. If you notice anything unusual, including any change in shape, colour or size of a spot, or a new spot, visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Checking your skin regularly is also important if you have naturally dark skin. Although your risk of melanoma is lower, it is more likely to be found at a later, more dangerous stage than a person with lighter skin.
The SunSmart program is world-renowned, leading the way in skin cancer prevention since its creation in the 1980s. The program is jointly funded by Cancer Council Victoria and VicHealth, and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for UV Radiation.
Visit the SunSmart website for more information.