Protect your skin
While people with a darker skin tone have a lower risk of skin cancer developing, they are still at risk. Get the facts on how to protect yourself and your mob from skin cancer.
Click on the headings below to learn ways to protect your skin.
- Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin.
- There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma (the most dangerous, but the least common).
- Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
- When your skin is unprotected in the sun, UV can damage the skin cells. Over time, this damage can lead to skin cancer.
- Too much UV exposure also causes sunburn, premature ageing and eye damage.
- UV radiation is produced by the sun, along with sunlight and heat.
- UV can’t be seen or felt, making it hard to know when it is causing damage.
- To know when the UV can damage your skin, check the UV Index for your local area. The UV Index tells us how intense the UV is on a particular day on a scale from 0 (none) to 11+ (Extreme).
- When the UV Index is 3 or more, sun protection is needed.
- You can find out the UV Index for your local area by using the free SunSmart app, the Bureau of Meteorology website (bom.gov.au/uv), or the weather section of daily newspapers.
- Australia has one of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world.
- Everyone is at risk of skin cancer. This is because we have such high levels of UV in Australia and we know that UV from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer.
- Your level of risk can be higher if you:
- have fair skin that burns easily
- have many moles on your skin
- have a history of sunburn
- work outdoors or spend time unprotected outdoors
- have had a skin cancer before, or a family history of skin cancer.
- While people with a darker skin tone have a lower risk of skin cancer developing, they are still at risk.
- The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin.
- By protecting your skin, you are stopping the sun’s UV radiation from doing damage.
- Sun protection is needed whenever the UV is 3 or above.
- In NSW, UV can damage the skin almost all year round, even during the cooler months.
- This means you need to make sun protection a regular part of your routine.
Slip: Slip on clothing that covers your shoulders, arms and legs. Clothing is the one of the most effective ways to protect your skin.
Slop: Slop on sunscreen to those areas of your skin not protected by clothing. Sunscreen protects your skin by creating a barrier between the sun’s UV and your skin. Remember if you are outside for more than 2 hours, you need to reapply sunscreen to all areas of your skin that is exposed to the sun.
Slap: Slap on a hat that has a broad brim, as it provides better protection to your face, ears and neck than a cap.
Seek: Seek out shade whenever you can. Shade keeps you cool and is great at reducing your exposure to UV.
Slide: Slide on close-fitting wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV radiation.
Try to protect yourself in as many ways as you can.
Remember every day you protect your skin, you reduce your risk. And the good news is, that it is never too late to start.
- Babies and children are at higher risk of sunburn and skin damage because of their sensitive skin.
- Cancer Council NSW recommends that babies under the age of 12 months are protected from direct sunlight.
- Cover as much of your children’s skin as possible with wraps, clothing, a sun smart hat, and use shade when you can.
- Apply sunscreen to any small areas of skin left uncovered. Note: Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under the age of 6 months.
- Cancer Council encourages everyone to check their skin regularly.
- Undress in a well-lit area and check from top to toe using a mirror, or ask for help from a family member/friend for hard to see areas.
- Check all of your skin, not just sun exposed areas as skin cancers can appear on parts of the body not exposed to the sun.
Look out for:
- A spot that looks and feels different from other spots on your skin
- A spot that has changed size, shape, colour or texture
- A sore that doesn’t heal within a few weeks
- A sore that is itchy or bleeds
If you notice any change visit your doctor straight away. You will have a much better result if the skin cancer is found and treated early.
How to check your skin
Skin cancer is treated in different ways, including:
- surgery to cut out the skin cancer
- strong medicines such as immunotherapy
- special x-rays called radiation therapy.
The way that skin cancer is treated will depend on the type of skin cancer you are diagnosed with. Your doctor will tell you what treatment is recommended.
For more information on cancer, visit our Cancer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people page. If you have any questions or concerns, call the Cancer Council Information and Support Line on 13 11 20.