By Dr Chloe Kindred
Here at Moreland General Practice, we are welcoming the arrival of summer at long last. However, warmer weather means greater skin exposure and we would like to take this opportunity to remind you of how to best protect your skin against UV radiation, and to let you know how we can help you care for your skin. Whilst sunlight is essential for building adequate stores of Vitamin D, UV radiation is responsible for causing most cases of skin cancer. In 2010 in Australia, almost 780,000 skin cancers were diagnosed and treated – and about 1% of these were melanomas, a highly invasive form of skin cancer.
We can’t feel UV radiation on our skin, but sunburn, or even a tan, is evidence that you have been exposed to enough sunburn to damage your skin. Evidence currently suggests that regular exposure to UV radiation year after year can also lead to skin cancer. To reduce your risk of skin cancer, use the preventative measures below on days when UV is 3 or higher. There are free apps (such as the Sunsmart app) that you can use which will advise of high UV. Measures to remember include:
- Slip on some clothing that will cover as much of your skin as possible
- Slop on SPF 30+ broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that covers the ears and neck
- Seek shade
- Slide on some sunglasses
Some people, including those of us over age 45 with fair complexions, those with a past history of any type of skin cancer or a family history of a first degree relative having had melanoma, or those with more than 100 moles, are at higher risk of skin cancer. These people should have a skin check every year with their doctor, and do three-monthly skin checks on their skin at home. A skin check is when a doctor looks at all the skin on your body closely to see if any spots look abnormal or pre-cancerous. All of our doctors at Moreland General Practice offer this service, and if they spot a suspicious looking lesion, most of the time this can be removed in the treatment room under local anaesthetic (with very little discomfort!).
It’s a great idea for all of us to be familiar with our skin, so that we can be aware of any changes in our moles, or any new spots that pop up. Signs to be wary of include large (bigger than half a centimeter) spots, multiple colours within the spot, asymmetry between the two halves of the spot, an irregular border, or a change in the diameter or elevation – such as the spot growing up and out of the skin rather quickly. It’s also sensible to take note of any itchy spots, or any change in shape, colour or size. If you do notice any of these changes, or a new spot, please do come in to see us at Moreland General Practice and have one of our doctors take a look to make sure it’s safe. If we take good care of our skin and prevent sun damage, pay attention to our skin and any changes, and – if in the high risk group – get regular skin checks by a doctor, together we can help each other reduce our risk of skin cancer.
You can also download the SunSmart app here: http://www.sunsmart.com.au/tools/interactive-tools/free-sunsmart-app-campaign
“Skin Checks” http://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/july/skin-checks/ accessed 27/11/2016 “Skin Cancer”
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/skin-cancer accessed 27/11/2016 “Causes of skin cancer”
http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/causes-of-skin-cancer.html accessed 27/11/2016