Sue Heward SunSmart Interview Question:
Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians aged 13 to 24 years; can you give us some skin cancer prevention tips?Sue Heward
: The best sun protection strategy is to check the SunSmart UV alert each day, which is available on a free-to-download SunSmart application for iPhones and androids, at sunsmart.com.au and in the daily newspapers.
Note the daily sun protection times and remember to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside and reapply it every two hours. The most important thing is to look out for sunscreens labelled SPF30+ broad spectrum water-resistant. Everyone's skin type is different so different sunscreens will suit different people better. The best idea is to try out different types until you find one that works best for you but always make sure the label says SPF 30+, broad spectrum and water resistant.
Use a generous amount of sunscreen. The average-sized adult should apply more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen (about 3 ml) to each arm and the face/neck (including ears), and just over one teaspoon (about 6 ml) to each leg, front of body and back of body. That is, 35 ml of sunscreen for one full body application.
The free SunSmart app includes a sunscreen calculator that provides customised feedback on the amount of sunscreen you need per application, based on your size and clothing cover and provides reminders every two hours so you don't forget to reapply.
Always use sunscreen with a hat, sun protective clothing, shade and sunglasses.Question:
How can we get the Vitamin D we need without putting ourselves at risk?Sue Heward
: Vitamin D is a hormone that controls calcium levels in the blood. It is needed for healthy bones and muscles and for general health.
The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D. Some foods, such as oily fish and eggs contain small amounts of vitamin D, while margarine and some types of milk have added vitamin D. Food however, only makes a small contribution to the body's overall vitamin D levels and it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.
The general rule of thumb is that whenever the UV is moderate to extreme (3 and above), sun protection is required. In the southern parts of Australia, such as Victoria, the UV is low from May until August, so sun protection is not required unless near reflective surfaces (such as snow) or outside for extended periods.
The free SunSmart iPhone app is a handy tool that allows users to find out if they're getting enough sun to help with vitamin D levels and alerts the user when they need to use sun protection.
Short exposures (a few minutes) to the sun is a better way to produce vitamin D as prolonged time actually results in the vitamin D being broken down. It is therefore best to expose larger amounts of skin for shorter times.
Solariums should never be used to boost vitamin D levels as they emit dangerous levels of UV that increase your risk of skin cancer. Question:
Can you explain what SPF means and why it is important to choose a high SPF sunscreen?Sue Heward
: The sun protection factor (SPF) number on sunscreens indicates the degree of protection it offers against UV radiation. Sunscreens with SPF of 4 and above are listed on the Australian Register of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and, therefore, must comply with the Australian/New Zealand Standard for sunscreen products.
The highest SPF for sunscreen available in Australian is SPF30+ however it's anticipated from late 2011, sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 50+ will be set to go on sale.
In laboratory conditions SPF 30+ sunscreen filters 96.7% of UV radiation while SPF 50+ filters 98% so interestingly SPF 50+ doesn't offer much extra sun protection than SPF 30.
People should not see sunscreen, whether 30+ or 50+ as a suit of armour against the sun. Especially as we know that people only put on a third to a half of the amount of sunscreen that they should and often forget to reapply every 2 hours.Question:
How and when should we be applying sunscreen?Sue Heward
: Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside when the UV Index is at 3 and above. The average-sized adult should apply more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen (about 3 ml) to each arm and the face/neck (including ears) and just over one teaspoon (about 6 ml) to each leg, front of body and back of body.
If outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours as sunscreen is easily wiped or sweated off. Putting sunscreen on every two hours helps keep you protected. Remember that sunscreen should not be used to extend the time you spend in the sun. Always combine with shade, a hat, clothing and sunglasses.Question:
Does sunscreen have a best before date? Sue Heward
: Yes sunscreen generally lasts for just 2 -3 years so check the expiry date and storage conditions on the label. Sunscreen should be stored at a temperature below 30ºC. If left in excessive heat (e.g. in the glove box of a hot car or in the sun on the beach), over time, the product may not work as well.Question:
Solariums are one of the biggest causes of skin cancer in young Australias; can you talk about how pale girls can survive the summer heat and not skip a beat?Sue Heward
: Your skin remembers and records all the UV exposure you have ever received - all the sunburns, tans, solarium visits or just simple day-to-day time spent outdoors when you have not used sun protection. It all adds up and increases your long-term risk of skin cancer. Sun protection is important at any age. It's estimated that if we reduce our lifetime exposure to UV radiation by just 20%, Australia would have about one third fewer cases of skin cancer.
Prevention is better than cure so to protect yourself against skin cancer, the best strategy is to check the SunSmart UV Alert on sunsmart.com.au or on your SunSmart app before heading out each day and note the times of the day that sun protection is required. During the sun protection times, remember to:
Slip on a long sleeved, lightweight jacket that covers as much of your skin as possible.
Slop on 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Don't use sunscreen to extend your time in the sun.
Slap on a wide brimmed hat that provides good protection for your face and neck.
Seek shade indoors, under an umbrella or marquee especially during peak UV times (10am to 3pm).
Slide on sunglasses - they are a great festival fashion accessory and protect your eyes from sun damage. Make sure they meet Australian Standards.Question:
What should we be looking out for to detect skin cancer early?Sue Heward
: If you notice any changes to your skin- an example would be if a new mole appears after the age of 25, definitely don't hesitate- see your doctor. Really get to know your skin and if you notice any changes in spots like moles - such as one is getting larger, has started to change/ shape or you get a new mole after the age of 25 then don't wait go get them checked by your GP.
The best-case scenario is that the mole or skin spot is harmless. Worst case scenario is that the mole is diagnosed as a skin cancer like melanoma.
For more SunSmart tips over summer, visit www.Facebook.com/SunSmartAus
Interview by Brooke Hunter