Q: Why is it so important to wear SPF?

Melanoma Institute: The biggest risk factor for developing melanoma is over exposure to the sun. That’s why being sun-safe is vital. We always recommend buying the highest possible SPF sunscreen (currently SPF50+ in Australia) with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, however slapping it on before you head out for the day simply is not enough. You’re most likely not applying the amount actually recommended for adequate protection. As a guide, you need a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover your whole body and face. Most people put less than half the recommended amount of sunscreen on which means they aren’t getting sufficient protection. So if you're wearing only half the recommended amount of SPF 50, you're only getting the protection of SPF 25.

Q: Do mineral and chemical SPFs protect differently? Do you have a preference?

Melanoma Institute: Sunscreens work differently depending on their type.  Despite the different ways they work, all sunscreens sold in Australia are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).  The best sunscreen is the one you will actually wear! Allergies to sunscreen are very rare, usually it is more an irritation than an allergy. We recommend people (with sensitive skin) opt for the many sunscreens available for those skin types and find one that works for them. Often mineral sunscreens are less irritating.

Q: How often should people be checking for Melanomas/ from what age?

Melanoma Institute: You need to 'know the skin you're in' and check regularly for anything new or changing. Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world, with one Australian diagnosed every 30 minutes. It is also the most common cancer in 20 to 39-year-old Australians. You are never too young or too old to be checking your skin for changes.

The first symptom of a melanoma is usually the appearance of a new spot, or a change in an existing freckle or mole. The change may be in size, shape or colour, and is normally noticed over several weeks or months. The ABCDE guidelines provide a useful way to monitor your skin and detect the early signs of melanoma. Melanoma may present with different characteristics. This is why regular skin checks from a professional are so important.

To make sure you don't miss anything:

  • Stand in front of a full length mirror in a well lit room.
  • Start at the top and work your way down your body.
  • Begin by using a brush or hairdryer to part your hair into sections so that you can check your scalp.
  • Move to your face and neck, not forgetting your ears, nostrils, and lips.
  • Be sure to check both the top and underneath of your arms. Don't forget your fingernails.
  • As you move down your body don't forget to check places where the sun doesn't shine! Melanoma can be found in places that do not have exposed skin.
  • Ask a partner or family member to check your scalp and back.
  • The best way to monitor changes on your skin is by taking photographs every few months and comparing them to identify any changes. React quickly if you see something growing and/or changing.

Other useful information is available at    

Credit: Melanoma Institute Australia and Game On Mole

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