Fun in the sun - safely


Summer's here and Sport & Body Image Reporter Jesse has some reminders about staying safe in the summer sunshine.

We've all seen the ad campaigns. We've heard the slogans. We know the message. But unless you're one of these pale-skinned, shadow dwelling types who seem to come into the world with an innate fear of the sun, we are all guilty of ignoring it every once in a while.

That's right. It's summer again. And with the joys of the swimming pool, the barbeque and backyard cricket comes the need to consider the damage that the hot summer sun can deliver. I'm here to tell you it all - the things you should already know and some things you probably would never have thought of.

What you know

Excessive exposure to the UV radiation emitted by the sun is the major cause of skin cancer, being responsible for up to 99% of cases.

Australians are sun lovers. It seems that every chance we get, we plant ourselves in the sun's sights, strip down to whatever level of clothing is deemed legal and bask in its glorious warmth. It's the Australian way.

The adoration for all things solar has landed our nation in the bad books. We have the highest rate of reported cases of skin cancers in the world, four times that of the United States.

SunSmart Victoria (new window) recommends that to properly protect ourselves from sun damage, we should consider the following guidelines:

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on some sunglasses - make sure they meet Australian Standards

The middle of the day is when the sun's rays are at their most dangerous. So take extra care between 10am and 3pm.

The interesting

The stats show that a quarter of Aussie teens get sunburnt on summer weekends. It doesn't need to be a hot, clear day to get burnt. UV rays will still damage you on overcast days.

The perils of tanning

You don't need to get burnt to be at risk either. Tanning increases your exposure to the sun's radiation and with that comes an increase in the potential for sun damage. And to those who are searching for the healthy tan look, the word is that your search is most likely to end in wrinkles, sagging and discolouration of the skin. Just something to keep in mind.

Don't forget. All the research is telling us to STAY AWAY FROM SOLARIUMS! These machines are practically melanoma factories. Solariums have done far too much damage in the past to ignore the danger. Just don't use them.

A quick word on fake tans. The best advice I have to give is to love the skin you're in. However, I realise that just letting it be how it is isn't a realistic idea in most circles. If you must have the golden-brown look, then using fake tan is a safer option than roasting for hours in the sun. But you must remember that fake tan doesn't give you any sun protection and that the basic laws of sun care still apply to you.

The scary

One in every two Australians will get skin cancer at some point in their life. For people aged between 15-39, melanoma is the most common of all cancers. Every year in Australia, there are upwards of 9500 cases of melanoma. More than 1200 of those cases are fatal.

Early detection is vital. If you think you notice a change in your skin, particularly changes in lumps, moles or freckles, make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can.

Have fun in the sun this summer. Get out. Get active. But be careful and keep in mind the dangers involved exposing yourself to the hot summer sun.

For more information contact the Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 or check out their online sun smart guide (new window).