While Australians enjoy some of the hottest weather all year round, we need to be doubly careful to protect our skin.
Skin cancer is a growing problem, and here in Australia we have one of the highest rates of the condition in the world. But just how does skin cancer develop and why does our nation face such a risk?
We take a closer look at skin cancer to find out more, as well as how you can protect your skin this summer.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the result of damage to our skin cells' DNA, which is often related to overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
There are three types of skin cancer, as described by the Cancer Council:
Basal cell carcinoma – 70 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancer tend to be basal cell carcinoma. There are usually no associated symptoms, with shoulders, neck, face and back the places where the lesions are most likely to develop.
Squamous cell carcinoma – Like basal cell carcinoma, this type of skin cancer is usually not considered to be life-threatening. It accounts for the remaining 30 per cent of non-melanoma cancer, and develops faster than its basal cell counterpart.
Melanoma – The most dangerous of all skin cancer, it is also the fourth-most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the country. Like other skin cancers, melanomas will almost always need to be removed, sometimes with some of the surrounding tissue. The prognosis for melanoma depends considerably on your age and severity of the cancer.
How prevalent is skin cancer in Australia?
According to the Cancer Council, skin cancer accounts for a staggering 80 per cent of all cancers diagnosed, with up to 99 per cent of occurrences due to sun exposure.
Each year, GPs undertake 1 million skin cancer consultations, with two in three Australians being diagnosed by the age of 70.
The Council also notes that the rate of skin cancer in our country has been on the rise over the course of the past decades, with the number of melanoma diagnoses growing by a staggering 60 per cent from 1982 to 2010.
Avoiding skin cancer
As explained by the Victoria government's Better Health Channel, here in Australia, we have some of the highest UV levels in the world – a status owed to our proximity to the equator and clear blue skies which offer little respite from the powerful sun.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), perhaps one of the reasons why skin cancer rates are on the rise across the globe is due to widespread perceptions of a tan being attractive. The WHO also reports that as a nation, we have the highest rate of malignant melanoma in the world, 10 times the rate of that for women and 20 times the rate for men in Europe.
While fair-skinned people are more likely to burn faster, having a tan will only grant you a modicum of protection, with the Cancer Council equating it to an SPF of 4.
As much as 95 per cent of melanomas are caused by sunburn, but skin cancer can also occur even without attaining a burn, according to the Cancer Council. This is why it is incredibly important to minimise your UV exposure as well as protect your skin with a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen such as the Ultra SunActive SPF50+ range. You can find out more about SPF and choosing the best sunscreen on our recent blog post.
If you notice any changes in your skin, as well as freckles or moles that change in colour or shape, seek the advice of a medical professional as soon as possible.