The Wiggles

Skin Cancer

(article brought to you by Cancer Council Australia)


Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. More than 430,000 Australians are treated a year for skin cancers. Of these, over 10,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed. Each year there are around 1600 deaths from melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

The major cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes in the summer sun so it is important to protect your skin from UV radiation.

Avoid using solariums or sunbeds, which emit harmful levels of UV radiation up to five times as strong as the summer midday sun.

Skin cancer is largely preventable. Be SunSmart. Protect yourself against sun damage and skin cancer by using a combination of these five steps:

1. Slip on sun protective clothing

Choose clothing that:

  • Covers as much skin as possible eg. long sleeves and high necks/collars.
  • Is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen.
  • If used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.

2. Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen

Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum and water resistant. Sunscreen should not be used to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and should always be used with other forms of protection. Apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.

3. Slap on a hat

A broad brimmed, legionnaire or bucket style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers. Caps and visors do not provide adequate protection. Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric - if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen to increase your level of protection.

4. Seek shade

Make use of trees or built shade structures, or bring your own! Staying in the shade is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. Whatever you use for shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.

5. Slide on some sunglasses

Sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Sunglasses are as important for children as they are for adults.
Remember to take extra care between 10am and 3pm when UV radiation is most intense.
Look out for the SunSmart UV Alert which tells you the time period in which you need to be SunSmart - it appears on the weather page of most daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology website:

Check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you notice any unusual skin changes.
If you have a lesion that doesn't heal, or a mole that has suddenly appeared, changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed, ask your doctor for a skin examination. Treatment is more likely to be successful if skin cancer is discovered early.
Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.

Where can I get reliable information?
Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20

Information and support for you and your family for the cost of a local call anywhere in Australia.
Cancer Council Australia website
(with links to state and territory Cancer Councils)

Children's skin protection

Damage to a child's skin begins with the first exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A young child's skin will be damaged by the sun much more easily than an adult or older child as it is thinner and produces less melanin (skin pigment). As little as 10 minutes in the sun can damage a young child's delicate skin.

Skin damage (suntan, sunburn) and eye damage is caused by over exposure to UV radiation (both UVA and UVB) from the sun. The damage builds up year after year and leads to premature ageing of the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer. If this damage occurs in the early years, it significantly increases the likelihood of developing skin cancer later in life.

Children of all nationalities and skin types have very sensitive skin that will burn easily. Children with fair or pale skin are more likely to burn but even children with dark skin can experience skin damage.

Key points for the protection of your child's skin

It is important to protect your child's skin when the UV radiation level is 3 and above - this is when the UV rays from the sun are strong enough to damage the skin and eyes and lead to skin cancer. Always try to keep infants (0-12months) out of the direct sun as much as possible.

Whenever the UV Index level is 3 and above use these 5 SunSmart steps:

1. Slip on a shirt

Cover up as much of your child's skin as possible with clothes made from closely woven, dark, cool fabrics. Long sleeved, collared shirts and long pants are best. Use wraps for young babies.

2. Slop on some sunscreen

Apply SPF 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen to small areas of the skin that can't be covered with clothing. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours.

3. Slap on a hat

Choose a hat with a wide brim that gives the face, neck, ears and eyes plenty of shade. Broad brimmed, bucket or legionnaire style hats are best.

4. Seek shade

Use full shade as much as possible when outside. Provide shade for the pram, stroller and play area.

5. Slide on some sunglasses

Encourage your child to wear wrap around style sunglasses that meet Australian Standard 1067 to protect the eyes.

In addition to these five steps, extra care should be taken during the middle of the day when UV radiation levels are at their peak.

The UV Alert

UV radiation can't be seen or felt. UV levels can still be high on cool or cloudy days. The SunSmart UV Alert is a new tool that shows the predicted times of the day (e.g. 9.35 am - 4.15 pm) when the UV radiation levels will be 3 and above. The SunSmart UV Alert is issued by the Bureau of Meteorology daily. Look on the newspaper's weather page or log onto Real time UV Alerts are also available for capital cities at

Vitamin D and sun exposure

Vitamin D is needed to make strong and healthy bones. The body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to UV radiation from the sun. Most children will get enough sunlight for healthy growth from incidental sun exposure even when protected with clothing, hats and sunscreen. Children with naturally very dark skin (skin type 6) may need more exposure time. It is not usually necessary for these children to apply sunscreen. This is a decision for their families to make. However all children should wear a sun protective hat to protect their eyes. If concerned, talk to your doctor.

Sunscreen application for children and babies

There is no evidence to suggest that using sunscreen has any harmful effects for children and babies. Sunscreen should always be used according to the manufacturer's instructions and should not be used to extend time in the sun. Aim to keep babies under 12 months out of the sun completely and keep young children out of the sun as much as possible. Always ensure they are also wearing a sun safe hat and protective clothing. If your child's skin reacts to a sunscreen, try a product for sensitive skin. Even with sunscreen, children should always be protected by shade and sun safe hats and clothing.

The SunSmart Early Childhood Program

The SunSmart Early Childhood Program is a national program operated by the Cancer Council. Early childhood services are supported to develop and implement a sun protection policy that helps reduce children's exposure to UV radiation, skin and eye damage and skin cancer - based on the latest research from the Cancer Council.
To locate a SunSmart service look for the SunSmart sign on display. A SunSmart sign on the front fence indicates the service's commitment to helping protect children and staff from the risks of too much UV.

For more information contact the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or visit the website

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