Monday, November 29, 2010

Stay safe this summer

Kids can have fun in the sun, and be protected
I have written about sun safety before, but since we are nearing the end of National Skin Cancer Action week, I thought it a good time to refresh our minds about how important this issue is for every family.
At least two out of three Australian children will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, and it is estimated that we get about 80 per cent of our total lifetime sun exposure in the first 18 years of life, so protecting our children’s delicate skin should be a priority.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia with more than 430,000 Australians treated each year.
Of these, more than 10,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed, and around 1700 deaths from skin cancer.
I’ve had three suspicious moles cut off my back, and a sun spot burnt off my nose – the result of many years of my childhood in the sun, despite my mother smothering my face with pink zinc cream – and luckily all were benign.
But skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes in the summer sun, and you only need to have one bad burn during your childhood to develop skin cancer later in life, so it’s important we teach our children to be sun smart, as well as being good role models.

Most Australians are aware of how best to protect themselves from sun damage. Slip on protective clothing (such as long sleeves and collars), slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen (ensuring it is broad spectrum and water-resistant, and reapply every two hours), slap on a hat (broad-brimmed to protect face, ears, nose and neck), seek shade, slide on sunglasses (choose those that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067).
All of these tips apply to children as well as adults, and be mindful that most of the sun’s dangerous UV radiation is in the middle of the day, so bring the kids inside during this time, or make sure they cover up and play in the shade.
Agoo Australia retails the only specific Activewear for kids, with breathable sports performance fabric and UV protection. Check it out at
Some sunscreens are marketed specifically for toddlers, infants and children, or people with sensitive skin, but research by Choice magazine has found that you don’t necessarily need a special sunscreen for children.
They may contain more physical blockers and fewer chemical absorbers, or simply use fewer irritants in the cream base, but this doesn't change its active ingredients of protecting you against sunburn.
Young babies under six months should be kept out of the sun at all times, but especially during the middle of the day.
Store your sunscreen in a cool place – it can lose its effectiveness if you leave it in the sun, and if your sunscreen goes past its use-by date, separates or gets gluggy, throw it out.
Most people don’t use nearly enough sunscreen – you actually need about 30ml (six teaspoons) to cover your whole body.
The best advice, says Choice, is to put one generous coat on whatever bits aren’t under clothing or hats about 20 minutes before you go out in the sun and another when you’re ready to go.
Check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you notice any unusual skin changes. If you have a lesion that doesn’t heal, or a mole that has suddenly appeared, changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed, ask your doctor for a skin examination.
Treatment is more likely to be successful if skin cancer is discovered early. 
Cancer Council Australia has an eye-opening list of myths about sun protection which I will list below:
1. It is not possible to get sunburnt on cloudy or cool days.
2. If your cosmetics contain sunscreen, you do not need to use sunscreen.
3. People with olive skin are not at risk of skin cancer.
4. Solariums are a safe way to get a “base tan” to start off the summer.
5. People need plenty of sun exposure to avoid vitamin D deficiency.
6. Fake tan darkens the skin, so that means your skin is protected from the sun.
7. You don’t have to be concerned about skin cancer because if it happens you will see it, and it is easy to treat.
8. Only sunbathers get skin cancer.
9. If you tan but don’t burn, you don’t need to bother with sun protection.
10. You can’t get burnt in the car or through a window.
All of the above are completely false, and you can learn why at or phone the Cancer Council Helpline on 131 120.


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