After skin cancer treatment

If you have been treated for sunspots (solar keratoses) or skin cancer, you have a high chance of developing new skin cancers.

Sun damage builds up over the years and can’t be repaired. However, you can prevent further damage to your skin. Make skin protection a part of your lifestyle throughout the year, not just in summer.

It is important to be familiar with your skin, check it for changes (self-examination) and visit your doctor for regular checkups.

Preventing other skin cancers

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun and other sources of UV radiation (such as solariums). Use a combination of the following measures to protect yourself.

  • Wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible, including the back of your neck. Shirts with sleeves and a collar, trousers, and long skirts or long shorts that cover a large part of your legs are ideal. The best protection comes from closely woven fabric, as UV radiation can go through thin material.
  • Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30+ that is broad spectrum and water resistant. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out and reapply every two hours or after swimming or any activity that causes you to sweat or rub it off.
  • Wear a hat that shades your face, neck and ears. Broad brim, bucket style and legionnaire style hats provide good protection. Baseball caps aren’t recommended. Adult hats should have at least an 8-10 cm brim.
  • Use shade from trees, umbrellas, buildings or any type of canopy. Choose your shade carefully. UV radiation is reflective and bounces off surfaces such as concrete, water and sand, causing you to burn even when you think you’re shaded.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067 (check the tag). Wrap-around styles are best.
  • Always protect your skin when the UV Index is 3 (moderate) or above. UV levels are strongest between 11am and 3pm during daylight saving (10am and 2pm at other times of the year). During these hours, more than 60% of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth’s surface.
  • Do not use tanning beds or sun lamps, which give off UV radiation that increases the risk of skin cancer.
  • Babies and children have delicate skin and should be protected from direct exposure to sunlight. Use shade, umbrellas, clothing and hats to protect them. Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen to the areas of skin that cannot be covered with clothing, such as the face and the back of the hands.

Sunlight and health

Sunlight is important to your health. Vitamin D, which is needed to develop and maintain strong and healthy bones, is made when skin is exposed to UV radiation.

You only need to be in the sun for about 10 minutes on most days of the week, outside peak UV times, to produce enough vitamin D for good health. Most Australians get enough UV radiation from the sun just by going about their daily activities. If you don’t go outside much and are concerned about getting enough vitamin D, talk to your GP.

This information was last reviewed in Content updated March 2011

This information has been reviewed by: Dr Andrew Satchell, Dermatologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Dubbo Dermatology; Irena Brozek, Research and Development Officer – Sun, Cancer Council NSW; Neva Sperling, Consumer; Monica Tucker, Cancer Information Consultant, Cancer Council Helpline; and Margaret Whitton, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of Dermatology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

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