Diving into open water swimming is one of the best parts about living in Western Australia. But whether you’re at the beach, the river or one of our beautiful dams – the sun’s rays can be extremely harsh.
To help you protect yourself and stay safe in the sun, we’ve got some SunSmart tips for you.
About skin cancer
Skin cancer is a disease of the body’s skin cells usually as a result of skin cell damage. Skin cancer can grow when the cells which make up our skin are damaged, causing them to grow abnormally.
Each time your skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, changes take place in the structure and function of our skin cells. Over time, the skin can become permanently damaged, which will worsen with each exposure.
Every additional decade of overexposure to UV further increases your risk of skin cancer. Increased use of sun protection against sun exposure will help prevent skin cancer and melanoma at any age.
All skin types can be damaged by exposure to UV radiation. People with skin types which are less likely to burn are still at risk, albeit lower, of developing skin cancer.
Types of skin cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma – is the most common form of skin cancer. It can grow deep into the skin and damage nearby tissue, making it more difficult to treat.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – makes up on third of all skin cancers and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
- Melanoma – is the least common type of skin cancer, but it is the most serious. Left untreated, a melanoma can spread deeper into the skin where cancer cells can escape and be carried in lymph vessels or blood vessels to other parts of the body.
How to protect yourself
Two in three Australians diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. You can protect yourself in the following ways:
- SLIP on some clothing – Wear clothes that cover your skin as much as possible. Sun protective fabric with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 50+ blocks more than 97.5% of UVA and UVB radiation and provides the highest level of protection.
- SLOP on sunscreen – Slop on SPF30 or higher sunscreen. Make sure it is broad spectrum and water resistant. Apply over all areas of exposed skin 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours or more regularly if you have been swimming or sweating.
- SLAP on a hat – Choose a hat with a brim to provide protection for your face, back of the neck, eyes and ears – the most common areas affected by skin cancer. Caps are not SunSmart, as they do not keep enough sun off your head.
- SLIDE on some sunglasses – Long-term exposure to UV radiation can cause cataracts and cancers of the eye and surrounding skin. Always wear sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard.
- SEEK some shade – The sun’s UV rays are normally strongest in the middle of the day. Aim to seek shade whenever the UV index is 3 or higher . If you can’t stay in the shade, make sure your skin is protected in other ways.