People need sunlight to thrive but too much can expose us to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so what is a healthy balance?
Physically, sunlight supports our bodies to make vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones. Mentally, it can lift our mood. Lack of sunlight may lead to depression.
Overexposure can burn, damage and age our skin while the UV rays present in sunlight are known to cause cancer. Australia’s sunny climate has contributed to our country showing the highest rates of skin cancer in the world!
In the 1970s, belonging to the leisured class meant lazing in the sun all day. Suntans were considered the height of fashion. One comedian twisted a famous saying by Wallis Simpson, that “you can never be too rich or to thin” by adding “or too tanned”. Subsequently, there were huge increases in skin cancer rates. A sun tan in the 70’s was literally a look "to die for".
Today, there are known to be three common skin cancers. Two of these, known as BCC and SCC, are very common and can be disfiguring but if caught early, can be successfully treated 99% of the time. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer because it can spread into other organs, such as the brain or lungs, and kill you. In most cases, even Melanoma can be treated when caught in its early stages.
Scientists say 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure each day is enough for fair skinned people; perhaps up to 30 minutes for those with dark complexions. In most parts of Australia, this may seem a little impractical but according to the Cancer Council, the following sun protection tips will assist with keeping you safe from over exposure.
- Use sunscreen
- Heed weather alerts about moderate to extreme UV levels
- The best time to catch some rays is first thing in the morning
- Check your skin regularly for spots and consult your doctor about any changes
To protect yourself from skin cancer, It’s important to familiarise yourself with your body’s markings. If you notice any unexplained changes, ask your GP to take a look. Most skin cancers that are detected early can be easily removed in day surgery, under local anaesthetic.
By Warren Heggarty, Panorama magazine
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