Four Things to Know About Your Skin During The Aussie Summer

Did you know? With around two in three Australians being diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70, it’s no surprise that we have one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world.

Since skin cancer can hide in plain sight and often in places you might not expect, the experts at Mooney Street Medical have put together these important things you should know about skin cancer this summer.

1. It’s the ultraviolet radiation

Sun exposure and UV radiation typically go hand-in-day, but it’s the UV index that you should look out for, not the “sun” so to speak.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage your DNA and penetrate the skin, causing permanent damage, which contributes to melanoma and other skin cancers.

You can still get burnt and exposed to UV radiation on cloudy days as UV light penetrates through clouds.

Make sure to look at the UV index, not just the temperature or if the weather is sunny.

When the UV is 3 or above, you’re at risk of exposing yourself to UV radiation when outside.

FYI: The average annual UV index in north Queensland is extreme

2. You can get burnt from reflection

Surfaces like water, sand, snow (although that’s not much of a problem in Australia) and even concrete can reflect and intensify the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Reflection from buildings can also play a role.

This is known as indirect or reflected UV exposure. The reflective surfaces can bounce the UV rays back onto your skin, increasing your risk of sunburn and damage to your skin.

Make sure to protect your skin by using sunscreen, wearing pants and long sleeves and sunglasses if you spend time outdoors.

A common situation could be during a picnic, sports event or similar where you might stay under the shade and not apply sunscreen, but actually still get exposed to UV rays.

Tip: Make sure to apply sunscreen where reflections might be intensified like under your chin, the undersides of your forearms and on your eyelids, keeping it out of your eyes of course. This can especially be the case when at the beach, as sand can be very reflective

3. Know your sunscreen

In Australia, most sunscreen is available in SPF30 or SFP50+.

SPF = Sun Protection Factor.

The SPF rating indicates the amount of UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation that potentially reaches the skin when the sunscreen is applied correctly.

UVB radiation is a type of ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun that can cause sunburn and contribute to skin cancer.

The number following SPF actually refers to how much UVB radiation is potentially NOT filtered.

For example, SPF30 allows 1/30th the amount of UVB rays to reach the skin compared to not wearing sunscreen at all.

1/30th = 3.3%.

So, 96.7% of UVB rays are potentially filtered out when you correctly apply SPF30 sunscreen.

SPF50 means 1/50th is estimated to get through to your skin, and 49/50ths – 98% – is filtered out when applied correctly.

Plus sign

The plus sign means ‘more than’ the number before it. For example, SPF50+ sunscreen actually offers SPF60 when tested. Manufacturers do this as batches and other factors can test slightly differently. Aiming and testing for SPF60 removes any margin of error, and is therefore rated at SPF50+.

The highest SPF for sunscreen available in Australia is SPF50+.

UVA and UVB rays

“Broad spectrum” means that it can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. These rays are the two types of UV light that reach the earth’s surface.

Key: “When applied correctly”. Ensure you read the label and apply sunscreen as advised, and remember that sweat and water can have an effect on sunscreen.

Q: Why don’t they make SPF100?

A: While this is possible, remember that going from SPF50 to SPF100 does not mean double the protection; SPF50 filters out around 49/50ths (98%) and SPF100 would filter out 99/100ths (99%). So, manufacturers would have to invest in whole new formulas and packaging for possibly 1% more protection.

Also, labelling sunscreen as SPF100 would likely give people a false sense of security, as some people (not readers of this article!) might translate it to mean “SPF 100%”.

4. Regular skin checks are crucial for Australians

ALL Australians we mean, no matter your complexion or lifestyle.

Did you know that early detection of skin cancer can dramatically increase the chances of successful treatment and recovery?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is over 99%.

Early detection saves lives.

A skin check is when a trained expert checks your skin to ensure it’s not hiding anything suspicious, give you an idea of your skin’s overall health and provide any advice or recommendations.

Skin checks can also focus on areas of your skin that receive more sun exposure than others, like your face, the back of your neck (assuming you don’t have long hair) and forearms. In more extensive skin checks, experts can check your whole body.

Of course, skin checks take place in private consultation rooms.

It’s generally recommended to have a skin check every six months or if you notice any suspicious spots or sun damage.

Book yourself in for a skin check: At Mooney Street Medical, we offer skin checks that are performed by specialists who understand the Queensland sun and our community.

Book a Skin check at Mooney Street Medical.

Summing up skin in the Aussie sun

There’s no denying that Australia, especially here in north Queensland, has some harsh UV conditions.

In fact, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy summer.

It does, however, mean that you certainly should take precautions:

  • Check the UV index as well as the temperature, and use sun protection
  • Beware of reflection from sand and other surfaces
  • Read the label of sunscreen that you use and aim for SPF50+
  • Book yourself in for a skin check