As we head into the hottest months of the year, many parents ask what they need to do to make sure their children are protected from the sun.
RPA’s skin cancer expert Professor John Thompson says summer is a timely reminder that we all could be a little more sun safe.
He says the good news is that ‘no hat no play’ rules at school are making sun safety a normal part of life for the next generation.
“More often than not children are reminding their parents about the need to wear a hat outdoors,” Professor Thompson says.
But he warns dabbing on a little sunscreen in the morning before we head out for the day isn’t enough.
Professor Thompson is the head of Melanoma and Surgical Oncology at RPA. He’s also a researcher who is focused on new treatments for patients with Melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer.
“In Australia we enjoy a beautiful, warm, sunny climate, but that means we also have an increased risk of UV exposure - it is this exposure that causes skin cancer,” Professor Thompson says.
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Two in three of us will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time we are 70. More than 2000 people die from skin cancer each year.
“There’s evidence that a couple of instances of bad sunburn in childhood greatly increases the risk of melanoma later in life.”
Professor Thompson says the best thing for parents to do is protect their children from too much sun exposure.
“Especially, make sure they don’t get sunburnt,” he says.
“We do need some time in the sun for our bodies to function, but in Australia, it is pretty much inevitable.”
Many people don’t realise that it only takes 10 minutes in the midday sun to get burnt if you have very fair skin.
“We all need to be careful, use physical protection (clothes), stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm, look for shade and make sure we’re putting on enough sunscreen.”
Professor Thompson says people rely on sunscreen, but a light smear doesn’t provide protection.
“People usually don’t put enough on. Be generous in applying sunscreen and reapply regularly,” Professor Thompson says.