Invincibility: be honest with yourself about your risk of skin cancer

If you thought about all the dangers in the world and what could happen to you then you may never leave your house. But avoiding thinking about the dangers altogether could mean that you make decisions that increase the risk of harm.

A good example of this is the seatbelt in the car. No one really wants to think about having a serious car accident and the impact it could have on your life, but at the same time ignoring the fact that there is a risk could lead you to not wearing a seat belt. By not acknowledging the risk and not wearing a seat belt you are significantly increasing your chance of serious injury or death as a result of an accident each time you get into a car. Sun protection is a bit similar.

No one really wants to think about the prospect of getting cancer. Cancer is scary and some people die from it, and for other people who do survive, it can really changes their life. Currently 1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. This is pretty scary given that skin cancer is almost entirely preventable. Yet in our heads we tell ourselves that we will be okay. We won’t get skin cancer, and if we do we will be old so it won’t really matter, or it will just be something that can be cut out and then we can go about our normal lives. But cancer is cancer. And to think it is something that is only likely to affect you when you get older would be failing to really understand the risk.

In fact, approximately 2000 people a year die from skin cancer and melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, is the most common cancer diagnosed in 15-29 year olds. Most people are surprised to hear that is a disease so prevalent in young people in Australia.

When you are in your 20s and 30s it is easy to think that you are invincible. You are strong and can pretty much handle anything. You have a great future ahead of you. The last thing you are probably thinking about is being diagnosed with melanoma.   But the truth is that many young Australians each year are receiving the life altering diagnosis of melanoma, an aggressive and potentially fatal cancer. Shockingly, more people die of skin cancer each year than on our nation’s roads.

Protecting yourself from the sun’s UV radiation might be something you know you are supposed to do, but maybe you don’t really realise what the real risk is. You might think that you are strong and the chance of you getting skin cancer is low, but the reality is that cancer is a lottery, one where you don’t want your number to come up. But acknowledging the threat and taking some simple steps to protect yourself can significantly reduce your risk.

Slip on some sun protective clothing, slap on a hat, slop on sunscreen, slide on sunglasses and seek shade. Download the SunSmart app but be aware that that UV exposure is cumulative and as an outdoor worker sun protection is required every day. And make sure you check your skin regularly for any spots that look different or may be new or changing. If you find something that that doesn’t look right then go and talk to your doctor as soon as you can. Early detection can be a big difference on treatment and survival rates. Don’t rob yourself of tomorrow because you think you are invincible today.

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