Body Boosters

Skincare & sun safety

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Every year in Australia:
  • Skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers
  • Between 95 and 99% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
  • Melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer
  • Basal cell carcinoma*
  • Squamous cell carcinoma*
*Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as non-melanoma skin cancer.

The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death.
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.
Become familiar with the look of your skin, so you pick up any changes that might suggest a skin cancer. Look for:
  • Any crusty, non-healing sores
  • Small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • New spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months (especially those dark brown to black, red or blue-black in colour).
If you notice any changes, consult your doctor. Your doctor may perform a biopsy (remove a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope) or refer you to a specialist if he/she suspects a skin cancer.

Remember: Be UV alert - Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.

How can I be in the sun safely?

Skin cancer is largely preventable. Be SunSmart. When the UV level is 3 or above, protect yourself against sun damage and skin cancer by using a combination of these five steps:

1. Slip on sun protective clothing
Choose clothing that:
  • Covers as much skin as possible e.g. shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars
  • Is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen
  • If used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.

2. Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen
Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum and water-resistant. Don’t use sunscreen to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and always use with other forms of protection too. Apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before you go outside and re-apply every two hours.

3. Slap on a hat
A broad-brimmed, legionnaire or bucket-style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers. Caps and visors do not provide enough protection. Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric – if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen.

4. Seek shade
Staying in the shade is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. Use trees or built shade structures, or bring your own! Whatever you use for shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.

5. Slide on some sunglasses
Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Sunglasses should be worn outside during daylight hours. Choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet Australian Standards.

Remember: Be UV alert
Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.

Source: Cancer Council Australia.

Pimples and acne

Despite their best efforts, most teenagers get some form of skin problem, ranging from the occasional pimple to severe acne. While the odd pimple is annoying, it’s unlikely to cause major physical or psychological harm.

But severe acne, especially if ongoing, can be very embarrassing and can affect self-esteem and social confidence.

What causes acne? (Pimples, zits)
The skin contains a huge number of pores (tiny holes) connected to glands that produce the oils (sebum), which keep the skin healthy. The cells lining the ducts (the tubes running from the gland to the skin surface) are continually replaced, with the old ones mixing with the oils, and getting pushed out of the ducts.

At puberty the amount of androgen hormones in the body increases, making these glands more active – thus producing more oil.

There are many bacteria (germs) growing on the skin normally. When there is more oil, bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) get into the pores and make the mixture of oil and old cells thicker and harder, so the pore can become blocked. The blocked pore may become a blackhead, whitehead or cyst.

Remember - most teenagers grow out of acne. After puberty most people have little trouble with acne, as their hormone levels settle.

Why do some teenagers get worse acne than others?

The appearance of the skin is largely influenced by two things:

heredity (the genes inherited from parents), and
puberty (the hormone changes that happen as you move from childhood to adolescence, then adulthood).

So, if your parents had a lot of acne, chances are you might too.

What can I do?
It’s important to know that the care you give your skin can’t stop pimples from coming completely, and that if your acne is very bad, skin care is not likely to make any difference. However, to help avoid pimples:
  • Wash your face once or twice a day, with a mild soap. The skin should not be scrubbed
  • While Wash your hair regularly
  • Don’t squeeze pimples, as this can damage the lining of the pore and the sebum and bacteria can get into the skin around the pimple, causing more inflammation (redness, swelling and pus)
  • If you do squeeze a pimple, make sure your hands are spotlessly clean and only squeeze very gently. If the pus or blackhead does not come out easily, it is not ready to come out
  • Expose the face to a little sunlight, but not enough to cause any skin damage
  • Avoid cosmetics and sunscreens which are oil based
  • Speak to your pharmacist about good over the counter pimple treatments.
If your acne is very bad, you may need to speak to your doctor. There are several treatments that doctors can prescribe that can make a lot of difference to acne.

Because it doesn’t always have the same cause, acne isn’t a ‘one solution fits all’ problem. What works for your best friend may not work for you.

Source: Women’s and Children’s Health Network, Child and Youth Health.

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