Australians are very lucky to live
in a country where we enjoy sunshine for most of the year. Not only does
sunshine carry health benefits, but it also provides an opportunity to enjoy
As the saying goes, ‘you can have
too much of a good thing’, and unfortunately too much exposure to the sun’s
rays can have serious long term health effects.
From a very young age, most of us
are encouraged to ‘slip, slop, slap’ and while it’s important to know how to protect yourself from harmful UV
rays, it’s also important to understand why
so that you are better informed and more likely to take action to protect
yourself and your family.
Here are some of the main health
risks associated with too much sun:
Australia has one of the highest
rates of skin cancer in the world. There are three types of skin cancer:
melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and usually occurs on parts
of the body that have been overexposed to the sun.
Melanoma is the third most common
cancer in Australia, and the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39-year-olds.
According to the Melanoma Institute Australia, it’s expected that there will be over 15,000
diagnoses of the melanoma of the skin in Australia this year alone — that’s
nearly one every half hour. It’s also predicted that there will be 1,726 deaths
from melanoma of the skin, or one Australian every five hours.
Exposure to UV radiation causes 95% of melanomas. Alarmingly, some research has found a connection between melanoma risk and excessive sun
exposure before adolescence, with childhood skin exposure increases the risk of
young adult melanoma by over three times. This may be because children have
particularly sensitive skin, making them vulnerable to sun damage. It’s
especially important to protect babies and children from the sun.
Signs of skin cancer include:
that change size, shape or colour
sores on the skin that are crusty and don’t heal
little round bumps on the skin
scaly, red, dry patches of skin that can look like ulcers and bleed
The Cancer Council has found that 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 5 teenagers are sunburnt on
an average summer weekend. Between days spent at the pool, playing sports on
the oval, getting together for a barbeque or even gardening, it’s very easy to
get sunburnt on days with a high UV index, especially if you’re not vigilant
about sun protection.
It’s important to remember that
overcast days can still have a high UV index, which means you can still be sunburnt.
In fact, sun protection is recommended for any day with a UV index of three or
higher. For most Australian cities, there are only two to four months of the
year with an average UV index under three, so year-round sun protection is
Sunburn isn’t just uncomfortable, it has been associated with melanoma. Signs and symptoms of sunburn are:
or red skin in exposed areas
affected area is warm or hot to touch
itchiness and tenderness
and blisters that will dry out in a few days, causing skin peeling
sunburn can also cause headache, fever and nausea.
and premature aging
Sunscreen has long been considered an important part of any skincare
routine, and this is because sun exposure is estimated to cause up to 80% of the visible signs of ageing.
This includes changes to the skin like wrinkles, pigmentation, and thinning of
the skin. UV radiation even causes irreparable damage on a cellular level and
affects your skins ability to heal from wounds.
When you think about protecting
your skin from the sun, it’s important to not only think about your face, but
also the hands, neck and chest. These areas tend to show signs of ageing like
thinning of the skin and pigmentation.
According to the Cancer Council, repeated exposure of the eyes to UV radiation can cause
short-term eye complains and permanent eye damage. This ranges from sunburn of
the cornea and acute photo keratopathy (which can result in permanent vision
loss) through to squamous cell cancer on the surface of the eye, and skin
cancer around the eyes.
When selecting sunglasses, there a
few key things to look out for. Firstly, make sure that you choose a wraparound
style that sits close to the face, to protect the delicate skin around your
eyes and the eye itself. Keep an eye out for the Australian/New Zealand
Standard which should be visible on the sunglasses, and choose a style that
meets category 2, 3, or 4. Make sure to wear a broad-brimmed hat for further
For more information about the
risks of UV radiation and tips to protect you and your family, speak to your
local Capital Chemist pharmacist or check out our Sun Care brochure.