With the longer days of Spring upon us, outdoor exercise is more appealing, yet can expose your skin to the sun’s harmful UV rays if you don’t choose the right protection.
As an marathon runner and skin cancer doctor, Australian Skin Cancer Clinic’s Dr Mary Boyling is well versed in fitness and sun safety and says there are key things to consider before stepping outside to get active.
Slip, slop, slap, seek, slide
Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible and wear a shirt with a collar rather than a singlet top.
If you are swimming, a wetsuit or rash vest is the best way to protect your skin, particularly if you are in the water for extended periods.
SPF30+ sunscreens filter out 97% of UV radiation but sunscreen will only filter out the sun if enough is used and it is used properly.
“Sunscreen should be applied over all areas of exposed skin 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every two hours or sooner if you’ve been swimming or sweating,” explains Dr Boyling.
Using a water resistant sunscreen is the best option and ensure that sunscreen is applied liberally to each limb, the front and back of the body and the face, neck, ears, hands and feet
Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, back of the neck, eyes and ears and ideally seek out shade when the sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm.
Sunglasses are also advised, says Dr Boyling.
“Long term exposure to UV radiation can cause cataracts and skin cancers of various tissues in the eye.
Long term exposure to UV radiation can cause cataracts and skin cancers of various tissues in the eye.Dr Mary Boyling
“Using sunglasses which wrap around the face and are close fitting will provide the maximum protection. There is an Australian Standard for sunglasses which you can look out for,” she says.
With melanoma one of the most common cancers affecting Australians youths, instilling a strong sun sense into children is the best form of protection possible.
Outdoor play at school swimming carnivals and regular sport should be enjoyed with sun safety in mind.
Much of the damage caused by the sun is done in our early years so establishing life long habits early is the best approach.
In fact, each year 3000 people are diagnosed with melanoma and the Hunter Region has one of the highest incidences in the world. Dr Boyling says early detection is vital.
“The earlier you find a cancerous mole, the easier the treatment and the better the outcomes. By regularly checking your skin and the skin of your children you will notice moles that are changing or new moles. Any lesions that itch, bleed or are changing in shape or size need to be investigated further.”
With practice a thorough skin check can be done in about 15 minutes. Head to www.ausskinclinics.com.au to find out how.
Dr Mary Boyling completed her medical degree (MBBS) in 1995 in SA, she moved to the Hunter in 2000 to complete her general practice training (FRACGP). Having practiced as a GP, she completed a course in Melanoma in 2006.