by CATHERINE NGUYEN
We have all heard about the importance of sun protection, but it is hard to appreciate how critical it is until you hear stories from people with melanoma.
Emma Betts, author of Dear Melanoma, went from being diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma to Stage 3 within a year when she was 22, to finally Stage 4 a few short months later. Unfortunately Emma passed away in 2017 at the age of 24.
Jess went from seeming to be in perfect health to having the life-threatening disease within 4 months at the age of 23. She could not stress enough how nasty and aggressive this cancer is, and is passionate about using her experience to promote sun safe behaviours.
Jay Allen was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in 2007. After two major operations and a bout of chemotherapy, he is now on a mission to save others from what he went through. “If you put a chicken in an oven, it cooks; it burns,” explained Jay. “And this is what your skin does when it’s outside at the hottest parts of the day… it [the sun] damages the cells in the mole or freckle, and they begin to spread.”
Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide
One of the easiest ways to remember the basics of sun protection is the Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide slogan. Originally developed as Slip, Slop, Slap in 1981, it was updated in 2007 by the Cancer Council to include the importance of seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses. The Cancer Council recommends a combination or all of the following sun protection measures for best protection:
- Slip on some sun-protective clothing to cover as much skin as possible.
- Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards.
- Slap on a hat to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
- Seek shade so that UV radiation is reduced.
- Slide on some close-fitting wraparound sunglasses and make sure they meet Australian standards. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat worn together can reduce ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98%.
As we start autumn and outdoor gatherings are being encouraged due to Covid-19, it is worth remembering that you can still get sun damage on windy, cloudy and cool days. Sun damage is caused by UV radiation, not temperature. No matter how cool the temperature feels, the sun’s UV rays can still cause damage to your skin within just a few minutes.
Sun protection measures should be adopted all year long, not just in warmer months. Doing this all year round will also turn it into an automatic behaviour, just like putting on a seatbelt. Given the importance of sun protection, isn’t it worth trying?
Catherine has been volunteering with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre since 2017, and joined Solaris Cancer Care as a blog writer in early August 2020. She cared for her father and her husband with cancer, and the experiences changed her life. Catherine developed a passion for researching all matters relating to cancer during her husband’s fight, and is keen to continue building on her knowledge and using it to help others.