Us West Aussies love nothing more than getting outdoors and enjoying the abundance of sunshine that lathers our great state. A small amount of incidental exposure to sunlight, around a few minutes each day, is actually important for maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin D needed for strong bones, muscles and overall good health. Too much exposure however, places us at great risk of damage from Ultra Violet ‘UV’ radiation which potentially could lead to the development of skin cancer. We need to get the balance right!
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world mainly due to our very high UV levels. According to the Cancer Council of WA, at least two in every three people will develop some type of skin cancer before they reach the age of 70.
Of the three main types of skin cancer most of these people will develop a Basal Cell Carcinoma which is usually a small, slow growing abnormal growth found mainly on the upper body, head and neck. They don’t usually spread far but if left can result in facial and body disfigurement. The next most common is the Squamous Cell Carcinoma often found on the lips, ears and scalp. These grow quicker and if left can potentially spread into the lymph nodes of the neck and then to other parts of the body.
The last and most dangerous type is the Melanoma which accounts for about one to two percent of all skin cancers. It can be found anywhere on the body but is mainly on the upper back of men and lower legs of women. It is an aggressive type and if left untreated can spread quickly to other parts of the body and potentially be fatal! It was estimated that this year alone there will be over 14,000 new cases nationally of Melanoma skin cancer detected, with over 8,500 of those men.
By spending more time in the sun, we inevitably place ourselves at an increased risk of skin damage and potential skin cancer. Taking measures to be sun safe should be part of our daily routine especially if we are involved in outdoor work! It’s important to remember that the UV levels can still be high even on a cool and cloudy day. Following these simple tips will get us well on the way to being sun safe …
- Cover up with appropriate clothes
- Use sun screen (don’t forget to reapply often)
- Wear a hat (the broader the better)
- Seek out shade
- Wear sunnies to protect your eyes
Early detection is always the key. Check your skin regularly all over for any unusual spots or growths (get your partner to help!). You can visit the Cancer Council of WA website for information about what exactly to look for and don’t hesitate to get anything of concern looked at by your doctor. An annual skin check with your GP or at a reputable skin clinic is also a good way to keep track of any changes or developments.
Brenden and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401Phone: 08 9690 2277