Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia, with 80 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in Australia being skin cancer. Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lower layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of skin). The epidermis contains three different types of cells: squamous cells, basal cells and melanocytes.
Skin cancer is predominantly caused by an accumulation of overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation (UVR) penetrating the skin and damaging these living cells.
The majority of skin cancers if detected early can be successfully treated and cured. Even the more serious types of skin cancers like melanomas can be cured in 95 per cent of cases if found and treated early.
Information about the early detection of skin cancer.
Sun exposure and vitamin D during different seasons in Queensland
Cancer Council Queensland recommends that people use sun protection whenever the UV index is three or above. Queensland experiences dangerously high levels of Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) all year round and the UV index is almost always three or above, even during winter.
There is no correlation between the UV index and daytime temperature, meaning that in winter the temperature can be low but the UV index can still be high enough to cause skin damage. It is important therefore to remember to use sun protection even when the weather is cool.
In the Southern states of Australia, the UV index sometimes falls below three during winter and people living in those states do not need to use sun protection when this occurs. However, it is important to remember that this is not the case in Queensland and that sun protection is required during the peak UV periods of 10am and 3pm all year round.
Cancer Council Queensland recommends that people protect themselves in five ways: Slip on sun protective clothing, Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade when outdoors, and Slide on sunglasses.
During summer the majority of people in Queensland can maintain vitamin D levels from a few minutes of exposure to sunlight on their face, arms and hands or the equivalent area of skin on either side of the peak UV periods (10 am to 3 pm) on most days of the week. This exposure usually occurs through incidental activities such as checking the mail or walking to the car. For most people in Queensland, it is not necessary to deliberately seek UV exposure to maintain vitamin D levels. Anyone concerned about their vitamin D levels should seek advice from their doctor.
For more information regarding skin cancer, speak to your doctor or call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.
The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only. See our Disclaimer.