Summer holidays in Australia are renowned for long playful days in the sun, surf and sand. With that comes the risk of being burnt – don’t let sunburn be your summer holiday souvenir.
“While summer holidays are the perfect time to reconnect with family and friends and recharge after a busy year, they are also the prime time for severe sunburn,” Melanoma Institute Australia chief executive Carole Renouf said.
She said bad sunburn in childhood increases the risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma, prompting warnings for summer seekers to ensure sunburn isn’t their summer holiday souvenir.
“In addition to being painful, sunburn can have a far more harmful impact. Intense, intermittent exposure leading to sunburn at a young age significantly increases your risk of developing melanoma in the future,” Ms Renouf said.
One Australian dies from melanoma every six hours. Melanoma is the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39 year-old Australians and is the leading cause of cancer deaths in 20 to 39-year-olds.
“The incidence of melanoma in the over 60s is also high, a legacy of sun-damage from decades ago,” Ms Renouf added.
“Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is damaging to skin cells as it causes mutations in DNA and it also impairs the immune system’s ability to repair.”
Ms Renouf explained intense, intermittent sun exposure leading to sunburn – particularly in the years prior to puberty – is the most dangerous. “Melanoma can develop decades after such exposure,” she said.
“The real tragedy of melanoma is that it is largely preventable. Sunscreen acts as a barrier, reducing the amount of UV radiation that reaches cells. However, the active ingredients in sunscreen break down quickly, meaning a single application in the morning will not last the whole day. It needs to be reapplied at least every two hours and it needs to be SPF50+.
“People relaxing on holidays tend to get sun safe before they head out in the morning, but then get caught up in the day’s activities and forget the basics like covering up and staying out of the sun during hottest part of the day.
Ms Renouf said you should always check your skin for any changes. “You need to get to know the skin you’re in and ask family and friends to check places you can’t easily see,” she said.
I urge holiday-makers to actively take steps to help protect against the sun, particularly for children and adolescents.
“There are far better souvenirs to bring back from a summer holiday than a bad sunburn, which has the potential for serious ramifications.”
Tips to protect your skin:
- Apply and re-apply SPF 50+ sunscreen.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and cover up with clothing.
- Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.
- Get to ‘know the skin you’re in’, and ask family members or friends to check for skin changes in places you can’t see, as melanoma is most common in men on the back and in women on the calves.
- Opt for a keyring or fridge magnet as your holiday souvenir, don’t bring sunburn home with you.