Six myths about sun protection

Man and child sitting on a fence

Are base tans good? Can you get vitamin D through sunscreen? And how old is too old for skin cancer prevention?

With two in three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70, now’s the time to brush up on your SunSmart knowledge.

Find out the truth about these six myths about sun protection. Can you spot the fact from the fiction?

“I only need to protect my skin if it’s a hot day.”

False!

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the major cause of skin cancer. UV rays also cause sunburn, tanning, premature ageing and eye damage.

UV rays can be strong enough to damage you skin on a cold or cloudy day, as well as a scorching hot one. That’s why you need to think UV – not heat – when it comes to sun protection.

To make it easier, the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts the times of the day you should protect yourself from UV rays. You can find these times on the free SunSmart app or in the daily forecast . Check them each day to make sure you’re protected whatever the weather.

“The damage is done for me, so it’s too late to start using sun protection now.”

False!

Even if you haven’t been SunSmart to-date, it’s not too late to start a healthy habit!

UV damage adds up over your lifetime: the more you get, the greater your risk of skin cancer. By improving your sun protection habits today, you can stop adding to the damage and cut your cancer risk.

“I don’t burn, so I don’t really need to worry about skin cancer.”

False!

While not everyone has a skin type that is easily sunburnt, we can all be damaged by UV rays. Any change in skin colour, including a tan, is just a visible symptom of the damage.

Over time the damage starts to show as sagging skin and wrinkles. It may also appear as a new or changing spot, which could be a skin cancer.

So no matter your skin type, protect it!

“A bit of tanning will toughen up my skin.”

False!

A tan is a sign of skin cells in trauma. That ‘base tan’, is a sign of UV damage, and is actually weakening your skin, accelerating the signs of ageing and increasing your risk of skin cancer.

You’ll keep your skin in much better condition by avoiding tanning and using a combination of sunscreen, clothing, hat, sunglasses and shade outdoors.

“It’s not healthy to wear sunscreen every day.”

False!

Multiple studies have shown regular sunscreen use cuts your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. So, when UV rays are reaching dangerous levels every day, sunscreen is an important tool in your sun protection kit.

All sunscreens sold in Australia go through testing and have the seal of approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), so you can be sure of their safe use.

Remember sunscreen is not a suit of armour though. Make sure you cover up with clothing first, don a broad-brimmed hat and slide on sunnies before applying your sunscreen.

“The best way to prevent skin cancer is to get skin checks.”

False!

As the saying goes, prevention is better than a cure! Checking your own skin regularly helps to find skin cancer at its early, less dangerous, stage. But treating a skin cancer isn’t always as simple as having it cut out. Treatment can involve invasive surgery, radiation and/or immunotherapy.

Sun protection is the best investment you can make in skin cancer prevention. So slip, slop, slap, seek and slide during the sun protection times each day.

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