Sun protection facts we sometimes get wrong

MASTER BUILDER, September – October 2016:
Now that the days are getting longer, the weather warmer and the UV levels higher, it is probably a good time to remind ourselves about the risk we face each day working outdoors in the sun.
Think UV not heat
One of the biggest mistakes that most of us make is thinking that we are at highest risk from sunburn when the weather is hot. Logically, it makes sense that you get burnt when it is hot, but skin actually burns after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, not infrared radiation which creates heat.
You can get burnt easily on cool, cloudy or windy days. In Perth, there are only about 30 days per year when the UV is low enough that you won’t get burnt. For all those other days, the UV level is high enough to burn your skin, even if the temperature is still low.
All skin types are at risk of skin cancer
People who have fair skin are at higher risk of sunburn, which sometimes leads people to believe that olive or darker skin is not at risk of skin cancer. However, this is not the case. Whether you burn or tan, the fact is that all skin types are vulnerable to skin cancer if they receive too much sun,
It is true that people with very dark skin have lower rates of skin cancer. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that because skin cancer is harder to detect on this skin, often it is not found until a much later, and potentially more critical, stage.
So regardless of your skin colour, you need to protect yourself when working outdoors and check your skin regularly for changes that look suspicious.
A tan does not protect you
Some people are convinced that getting a tan will protect them from skin cancer, but the issue is that in order to get that tan, you need to expose your unprotected skin to the sun for longer than you should, and this increases your lifetime risk of skin cancer. A tan is actually your body’s way of trying to protect itself.
The fact is, whether it is burning or tanning, your skin changes colour as a result of overexposure to UV radiation, and it is this overexposure that can lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer happens to young people too
Lots of older people might get skin cancer, but that doesn’t mean that younger people are not at risk. Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, is the commonest cancer diagnosed in 15-29-year-olds. And the damage done to your skin between birth and adulthood plays a big part in determining your lifetime risk of skin cancer.
This is why it is important for everyone to protect themselves from overexposure to UV, whether they are 0 or 99.
Vitamin D is important for good health
There has been a lot of media in recent years about vitamin D and how important it is for bone and muscle health. Most of us know that the majority of vitamin D in our bodies comes from the sun, which has led some people to relax their sun protection behaviours, potentially increasing their risk of skin cancer.
However, for outdoor workers, it is recommended that you use sun protection whenever you are outdoors because your risk of skin cancer is so high, and it is extremely unlikely that you are suffering from vitamin D deficiency.
It is worth saying two more things about vitamin D. Once you receive your daily dosage of vitamin D, additional time in the sun doesn’t increase the level in your body, but does increase your risk of skin cancer And if you suspect you have low levels of vitamin D, then talk to your doctor about it rather than seeking extra sun for a condition you may not even have.
Each year skin cancer kilis more people in Australia than traffic accidents. It is a silent killer because it is not spoken about nearly as much as it should be, and the sab thing is that it is a cancer that is almost entirely preventable through consistent sun protection.
As we move further into spring and summer, the UV level will increase, and with it the risk of overexposure to UV and skin cancer. If you want to find out more about how and why you should protect yourself when working outdoors, go to www,uvdaily.com.au or email SunSmart at sunsmart@cancerwa.asn,au.