A sunburnt country

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Summer means sunshine, means shorts and bikes, and obviously tan lines.

On the heels of the news that a new drug has been introduced, giving melanoma patients longer lives with less side effects, I figure it’s time to have a skin check. One Australian dies every six hours from melanoma. If skin cancer hasn’t touched your family, it no doubt will soon. My dad has had several cancers removed, and my dearest uncle died suddenly from melanoma related cancer that had spread throughout his body. A loss like that is not worth the excuse to not put on sunscreen or get regular check ups.

We’re Aussies, we love our sunburnt country! We spend a lot of time outdoors. Hiking, running, cycling, in fact, just the harsh Australian sun as we travel around throughout the day, to and from work, home, the gym, that sun is hitting us. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the hassle of applying sunscreen, I’ve seen so many with serious burns, but that hot tan, those tan lines of pride that cyclists sport, they can come with a heavy price tag.

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My palm freckle that I thought was dirt and attempted to scrub off when I first noticed it.

Checking your skin for suspicious moles or spots is easy to do yourself, and it’s worth getting a professional check up every so often to ensure you don’t miss something. When it’s caught early, it’s easily treatable. First, I have to stress that skin cancers don’t only appear on areas that see the sun. I have freckles in weird places, like between my toes and on my palm, and I don’t walk around with my toes spread or my palms facing up. Skin cancers have been found on peoples feet, or even under your nails! As such, make sure you check out your whole body when you’re looking for changes, and don’t forget your hair. When you’re looking, follow the ABCD guideline, look for asymmetry, an irregular border, changes in colour or irregular colours, and changes in diameter or general size.

Of course, our risk of developing skin cancer is related to our genetics, our skin type, but regardless of this, the sun can still damage your eyesight. When we are outdoors, we need to be protecting our eyes against the harmful effects of the sun. This is as simple as wearing sunnies and a hat. Ultraviolet radiation that enters our eyes damages the retina, which over time increases our risk of serious diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

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Get out, enjoy life, and be sun smart!

Even with sunscreen on, you can still tan, depending on your skin type of course. As such, coming into summer, I get a stronger and stronger tan. To be honest, I am not a fan of the farmers tan on the arm, so I tend to wear arm sleeves when riding – nice thin lycra ones in summer, and some fun colourful ones in winter (also helps keep me warm).

Regardless, the tan lines we end up with, the freckles that appear should remind us to check our skin for any changes, but also to be proud of the active lifestyle we lead. Enjoy the outdoors, remember to protect your skin, and be proud of the adventure you’re undertaking!

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