It’s one of Australia’s most common cancers – more than two-thirds of us will be diagnosed with skin cancer before we’re 70. But, when it comes to sun protection, most of us aren’t taking the advice we give to our kids.
A recent study by Aussie life insurance provider TAL found that while 41% of us urge our children to wear sunscreen, only 19% of us follow that same advice.
A whopping 77% of Australians surveyed admitted they could be doing more to protect themselves from the sun every day, and 28% said they have never had a skin check.
“As one of the most easily detectable and preventable cancers, it’s so important that professional skin checks and self-checking become an integral part of everyone’s health routine,” says Dr Sally Phillips, TAL’s General Manager of Health Services. “It is the belief that skin cancer only happens to others that is a main barrier to Australians taking preventative action.”
For Aussie mum Kristie, sun protection was always something she thought about – for her kids, at least.
“I make sure to put sunscreen on my kids before leaving the house everyday and make sure I have a hat for them, but I know I was slack on myself as I was always putting them first,” she says.
Despite seeing many friends and family members diagnosed with skin cancer, Kristie, like so many of us, figured, “It will never happen to me.”
But in February 2018, after telling her sister about the small bump she had noticed underneath her eye when applying her face cream, she felt obliged to take her sister’s advice and see a doctor. That appointment revealed Kristie’s worst fear: an aggressive basal cell carcinoma.
“I felt almost obliged to get it checked after telling my sister about the bump, even if it was just a way to ease her mind,” says Kristie. “I think we often take our loved ones’ advice over general medical advice because we see their concern and we trust them with our wellbeing.”
Later, Kristie was told that if she hadn’t caught it when she did, it would have grown to be the size of a 50c coin – taking up half her cheekbone.
“I am so thankful I took my sister’s advice – if it wasn’t for her, I don’t know how the situation would have turned out.”
“We’re aiming to encourage more Australians to take a proactive approach to regular skin checks, understand the need to sometimes put their own health first and educate people around the importance of skin safety,” says Sally. “The importance of regular skin checks – given the high incidence of skin cancer in Australia – is a message that may not be getting through to us.”
Kristie’s word of warning to other parents? Take your own advice.
“We need to be practising what we preach, especially in self-care,” Kristie says. “My scar is a daily reminder to continue to wear sunscreen, protective wear and seek shade when out in the sun as much as possible – preventative health is so important, and should be our priority.
“While I definitely still put my kids first, I made a resolution to take some more time for myself and look after me as a priority too. Most importantly, I get my skin checked regularly now – and I must say, I deﬁnitely hadn’t been getting my skin checked regularly enough before.”
How can you look after your skin at home? The Skin Cancer College of Australasia recommends ‘SCAN’-ing your skin for spots and moles that are:
- SORE – A spot which is sore (scaly, itchy, bleeding or tender) and doesn’t heal within 6 weeks
- CHANGING – In appearance (size, shape, colour or texture).
- ABNORMAL – Looks different, feels different, or stands out when compared to other spots and moles
- NEW – Spots that have appeared recently
Looking for more resources and information about sun protection, including where to find your local GP? Head to www.tal.com.au/tal-spotchecker.