AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that sunscreens that have a higher sun protective factor (SPF) – up to SPF 50+ – are readily available this summer, but warned that people should not limit their sun protection to stronger sunscreens alone.
“These products offer more protection, but people shouldn’t become careless about comprehensive sun safety for themselves and their families,” Dr Hambleton said.
“The SPF number should be used as a guide on the level of protection, but it should not be used to determine how long it will take in the sun to become sunburnt.
“People should still limit their time in the sun, especially during the middle of the day when they should seek out shade.
“This is really important for all people spending time outside over the summer – at the beach, river or swimming pool, music festivals, walking, cycling or jogging, playing sport, or going to sporting and cultural events.
“It’s also important to remember other sun smart behaviours such as wearing sunglasses, wide brimmed hats and sun protective clothing. People who have been drinking need to be extra vigilant.”
Dr Hambleton said that sunburn is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma.
“Prevention is better than treatment,” Dr Hambleton said.
“Skin cancer accounts for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers and between 95 and 99 per cent of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.
“Australian GPs conduct more than one million patient consultations a year for skin cancer.”
- The most effective sunscreen is labelled SPF30+ (or higher), is broad spectrum, and is water resistant;
- Ideally sunscreen is applied to dry clean skin at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure. Adults should use about one teaspoon of product on each arm and leg (also on the back of the neck and torso) and about half a teaspoon on the face and neck. People should also remember to apply sunscreen to the back of the ears and on the tops of their feet. Most sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours;
- The chemicals used in sunscreens available in Australia have been tested and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as being safe and effective;
- A recent article published in the Medical Journal of Australia noted that non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) was the most common and most expensive cancer in Australia. Using Medicare data, the authors found 767,347 treatments of NMSC in 2010, at a cost of $93.5 million. This figure is expected to rise to $109.8 million by 2015.
(Source: Australian Medical Association: Medical Journal of Australia)
For more information on skin cancer including common types of skin cancers, and its treatment and preventative measures, as well as some useful videos, see Skin Cancer.