Sun safety myths busted
DESPITE the well-known fact Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, Cancer Council Queensland's Bonnie Dale is still surprised by the amount of damage Bundaberg people are doing to their skin.
The Bundy-based Cancer Action co-ordinator wants people to understand skin cancer is preventable and they need to take personal responsibility to protect themselves.
As part of National Skin Cancer Action Week, Ms Dale has set out to bust the main myths she believes can put people in danger.
In Ms Dale's eyes, the big three misconceptions about sun safety are:
- It's not possible to get burnt on cool or cloudy days
- A darker or olive complexion will protect you from the sun
- You need plenty of sun to get a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Ms Dale said the biggest of the three myths surrounded Vitamin D. Gained partly through exposure to sunlight, it is needed for general good health, especially healthy muscles and strong bones.
But according to Ms Dale, all this myth does is give people a rationale not to be sunsmart.
“It's not something Queenslanders need to deliberately seek out,” she said.
“Your need for Vitamin D is met with a few minutes exposure a couple of days a week outside peak UV times.”
Ms Dale said with a sultry summer season forecast for Bundaberg, people couldn't afford to be flippant about cloudy days.
She said UV radiation had nothing to do with heat or light and could easily penetrate cloud cover.
And while people who tan easily or are naturally dark skinned have slightly more protection than their fair-skinned counterparts, most Australians do not produce enough melanin to ward off UV radiation.
Ms Dale said having olive skin gave people no more protection than slapping on SPF4 sunblock.
Ms Dale said the first step towards this was remembering the SSSSS slogan: Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide. If you're going out in the sun, slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slop on some SPF30+ sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on some sunglasses.
But she warned against being too reliant on sunblock.
“Sunscreen doesn't provide 100% protection and needs to be the last line of defence behind staying out of the sun, a shirt, hat and sunnies,” she said.
“Having sunblock as a last line of defence is the right way to think about it.”
She also said people often didn't apply enough sunblock.
It should be applied liberally, at least every two hours, or even more if you're sweating or swimming.
It is important not to rub the sunblock in completely as a thin film on the skin will increase its effectiveness.
And be sure to put it on 20 minutes before going out in the sun to give it time to bond with the skin, especially if you're going swimming.
Being close to the beach and having a beach culture, we need to remember water and sand reflect UV rays.
“Taking your kids to the beach is great, but you've got to be careful.”
Bundaberg/ Wide Bay skin cancer stats:
New cases per year: 132
Chance of diagnosis by age 85: 1 in 18
Median age at diagnosis: 63
Surviving 5 years: 92%
Deaths before age 80: 63%