At a time when two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, we should all take heed of Hugh Jackman’s advice.
Hugh Jackman, 46, underwent treatment in 2014 for basal cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancer)
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of skin cancer in Australia, however most incidences are not life-threatening. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can be fatal.
What symptoms should you look out for?
It is a good idea to get to know your body and regularly check for symptoms. If you notice any changes such as a spot growing on your skin you should see your doctor. So, what are the symptoms to check for?
Cancer Council Australia details the symptoms listed here below on their website.
Symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancers include:
- any crusty, non-healing sores
- small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
- new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months (especially those dark brown to black, red or blue-black in colour).
Symptoms of melanoma skin cancers:
Often melanoma has no symptoms, however it can be associated with changes that relate to ‘ABCDE’ - Asymmetry, irregular Border, uneven Colour, Diameter (usually over 6mm), Evolving (changing and growing) of spots. For information of other symptoms visit Cancer Council Australia’s website.
Skin cancer is the result of your skin cells being damaged. The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Your risk of skin cancer is increased if you have:
- increased numbers of unusual moles
- fair skin, a tendency to burn rather than tan, freckles, light eye colour, fair or red hair colour
- had episodes of sunburn (especially during childhood)
- had a previous skin cancer.
So, what can you do to prevent skin cancer? You should avoid sunburn by minimising your exposure to the sun when the SunSmart UV Alert exceeds 3 and especially in the middle of the day when the UV levels are the highest.
The SunSmart UV alert is a handy tool you can use to find out the times during the day when you need to be SunSmart.
The Alert is issued by the Bureau of Meteorology when the UV index is forecast to reach 3 or above, at which you can experience damage to your skin which could potentially lead to skin cancer. The Alert is reported in the weather page of all Australian daily newspapers, on the Bureau of Meteorology website, and on some radio and mobile weather forecasts.
There is also a free SunSmart app is a great way to check the UV Alert using a smartphone when you are out and about.
'Slip, Slop, Slap' the health campaign launched by SunSmart in the eighties is still relevant today but has been expanded over the years to: Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide! These five words are a helpful way to remember how to protect ourselves from skin cancer during sun protection times:
- Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
- Slop on SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours when outdoors or more often if perspiring or swimming.
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on sunglasses.
It's also a good idea to avoid using solariums as this is another way your skin can be overexposed to UV radiation.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are almost always removed but in some cases of melanoma cancers other types of therapy are used during the treatment process. To learn more about treatment options for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers visit the Cancer Council Australia website and speak to your doctor.
This Sunday 22 March thousands of Australians will be marching to raise awareness of Melanoma skin cancer and raise funds for Melanoma research as part of the Melanoma March. The Melanoma March was established by a local Sydney man who list his son to melanoma and has evolved into a national initiative and major annual fundraising campaign to support Melanoma Institute Australia.
In 2015 the goal of the initiative is to raise $1 million to fund a research project of national importance and continue work to find a cure for melanoma. Marches have been taking place throughout the month and there will be marches happening this Sunday in Darwin, Coolangatta, Brisbane, Manly, Adelaide, Perth, Rockingham and other locations across the country. To find out more about Melanoma March and how you can take part in a city near you visit the campaign's website.
Hugh Jackman told a journalist from the Associate Press in May last year “...the beauty of this is it's all preventable, it's just about getting proper check-ups. I can be typical man, a little lazy, I couldn't be bothered and now I'm not lazy at all.”
We think this example is definitely one to follow. Don't be lazy. Get proper check-ups, know your body, speak to your doctor, and encourage your friends to do the same.