Skin cancer is rife in Australia, and there are 7 places on your body where they’re most likely to crop up. If you take charge now, you can prevent the damage that causes these deadly spots.
When it comes to nicknames, Australia’s moniker of “a sunburnt country” is becoming more of a harsh truth about our people than an affectionate depiction of our landscape.
According to the Cancer Council, Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with at least two out of every three people diagnosed with skin cancer before reaching 70 years of age.
The worst thing is that skin cancer is mostly preventable!
What does skin cancer look like?
Before we dive into the most skin-cancer-prone areas of your body, let’s first make sure you’re conducting regular skin exams. You can keep an eye on any changes or abnormalities, but also see a doctor for a professional skin check every six months, too.
Depending on the type, skin cancers can range in appearance from pearly white bumps and black or blue lesions, to highly pigmented, slightly raised areas and red scaly patches.
Let’s look at the 7 top places that skin cancers form, and how you can prevent them.
- Your face.
Endlessly exposed to the elements, it’s probably not a surprise that our faces are where skin cancers like to form most. More specifically, it’s your nose that’s the hardest hit. On the upside, the fact that our faces are so visible to ourselves and others means that facial skin cancers are more easily noticed and often more quickly treated.
You can use three types of protection for your face. First, a hat to provide shade. You can also wear a broad spectrum SPF30+ sunscreen (some moisturisers and foundations have SPF included). The correct application requires at least a teaspoon of sunscreen, rubbed in 20 minutes before going outside. This application should be repeated every two hours, and after swimming.
If you’re playing sports, cycling or spending dedicated time in the sun, you can also use a UPF50+ Face Shield that deflects both UVA and UVB rays (but note, the breathable mesh fabric on the nose isn’t fully UV protectant, so pair it with a hat).
- Your scalp.
It’s true that this is most commonly a factor for balding men, however, no one should be lax in protecting their scalps. Part lines and hairlines can’t be slathered with sunscreen, and are especially vulnerable to skin cancer. We see it a lot in young children with thin hair, too. Prevention involves wearing a hat made of UPF fabric and asking family and hairdressers to give your scalp a check regularly.
- Your ears.
Ears are often forgotten when we apply our sunscreen, despite the fact they’re so often exposed to the rays. Sticking out from caps and beneath short haircuts, the ears can see as much or even more of the sun than our faces! A broad-rimmed hat will help shade your ears, and it helps to get into the habit of rubbing sunscreen on your ears at the same time as your face.
- Your neck.
We don’t think about our necks very much, do we? From sporting events to lounging in the sun, our necks experience extensive UV exposure but are often forgotten. SPF 50+ sunscreen should be applied liberally to the neck each day as a minimum, but if you’re planning to enjoy outdoor sports or have a big day in the sun, you can throw on special protective clothing designed to protect the neck. We offer UV face shields with an innovative fabric that fully covers and protects your neck.
- Your hands and arms.
Most Aussies are shocked when they realise how much incidental sun exposure hands and arms receive on a day-to-day basis. Driving is one of the major contributors, where our hands and arms are positioned directly in the sun for much of every trip (even when it’s cloudy!).
Countless studies have shown the correlation between driving and skin cancer on hands, with elevated rates of cancers on our right (or ‘driving’) hands and arms, likely due to resting on the window frame.
But, our everyday lives outside – at school, playing sports, hanging out at the beach, gardening, you name it – all add up to a skin cancer disaster waiting to happen.
You can use two products to protect your hands and arms. Arm sleeves protect your skin from 90% of UVA and UVB rays. It’s your absolute best defence against skin damage (some also come with thumbholes to help protect the back of your hands). And, luckily, driving gloves are making a comeback! Wearing UV-protectant driving gloves in the car significantly reduces exposure to damaging UVA and UVB rays.
- Your torso.
The trunk of the body is the most likely site for melanomas in Australian men. Science (and evidence from our skin cancer rates) show that your regular t-shirt can only block out around 5% of the sun’s harmful UV rays.
The very best protection for your upper body is a UPF50+ shirt. The fabric blocks both forms of UV rays by up to 90%, and won’t become less effective as you sweat. It’ll actually help keep you cooler! Sun protective shirts come in long sleeves and can be worn under a uniform or other shirt.
- Your legs.
It doesn’t seem likely, but it’s true. In Australia, women are most likely to experience melanoma on their lower legs simply because they wear more skirts and above-the-knee dresses. But, it’s also a hotspot for sportspeople wearing shorts out on the field.
While sunscreen can help, there’s no comparison to the skin-protecting power of leg sleeves. Spanning ankle to mid-thigh with a thick band to hold them up securely, leg sleeves are a super lightweight and comfy way to protect your legs from the sun. Pull them on beneath shorts, sports uniforms, or skirts for all-day peace of mind.