5 facts about melanoma that will make you apply sunscreen properly forever.

Thanks to our brand partner, Sunsense


When you hear “summertime in Australia”, you want to think of family time outdoors, kids running through the sprinklers in the backyard, and long days of beaches and barbecues.

But during all these moments, we also have to think about what the hot, dangerous Aussie sun might be doing to our skin.

Australia is often described as “the melanoma capital of the world”, which Associate Professor Pascale Guitera, Dermatologist at the Melanoma Institute of Australia, wants to change.

“Melanoma is often referred to as ‘Australia’s national cancer’. One Australian is diagnosed with melanoma every half an hour, and one Australian dies from the disease every five hours,” Guitera tells Mamamia.

With the enormity of these statistics, it has become Professor Guitera’s goal to reach zero deaths caused by melanoma. To help achieve this, she shares five facts with us about what we can do right now, each and every day of summer and beyond.

melanoma institute
Professor Pascale Guitera is a melanoma expert. Here is her advice. Image: Supplied.

1. Summer isn't the only 'at risk' time of the year for melanoma.

Checking your local UV index is crucial to sun safety anywhere in Australia, because, as Professor Guitera explains, sun protection is required year-round.

“Australia has one of the highest levels of UV exposure in the world,” Professor Guitera says. “Sun protection measures are recommended when the UV Index is 3 or above. It is not very often that the UV index is under 3 in Australia, so our advice is to cover up and use sun protection year-round."

Given the dangers posed by the sun in Australia, it is also crucial that people are  aware of potential incidental sun damage, like driving your car or going to the shops.

Professor Guitera believes that “applying sunscreen should become second nature before you leave the house, just like brushing your teeth”. Ensuring you apply a high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen, like any from the SunSense range, is vital for helping to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays every day.

SunSense sunscreens are all dermatologically tested and oil free, and also suitable for the entire family’s daily skincare routine. Their range includes sunscreens for those with more sensitive skin, as well as sweat resistant options.


They're also on board with the Melanoma Institute of Australia's goal of bringing the number of melanoma deaths in Australia down to zero. From the 19th of January to the 15th of February, $1 from every SunSense sunscreen purchased in an Australian pharmacy will go to the Melanoma Institute of Australia's research.

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2. A melanoma may not look like you might expect.

Look out for moles that might change in colour, symmetry or shape. Image: Getty.

“The vast majority of melanomas are detected early in this country as Australians are aware that any new or changing lesion can be dangerous,” Professor Guitera says.

A typical melanoma could look like a mole or a freckle, but when it starts to change, that's when you should pay attention. However, Professor Guitera adds that a melanoma “may also show up as a lump on the skin that is pink, red, white or even blue in colour”.

She suggests using the ABCDE guidelines to help monitor your skin:

• A is for asymmetry, where the mole, freckle or spot does not have a symmetry of pattern.
• B is for border, where the edges of the spot are irregular, blurred, notched or ragged.
• C is for colour, where the colour may differ over the entirety of the mole or freckle.
• D is for diameter, where the length across the spot is larger than 6mm, about the size of a pencil eraser. However, it's growth rather than size that is more important.
• E is for evolving, where any change in the above features, elevation, shape, or other characteristics such as itching or bleeding, is cause for concern. This may be the most important of all the warning signs for melanoma.


Any change is cause for closer examination by a medical professional.

3. A melanoma can grow on areas that are rarely or ever exposed to the sun.

“Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin,” Professor Guitera says. “Even in areas that receive little or no sun exposure, like inside the mouth or on the soles of your feet. However, this type of melanoma is rare.

“Most sun-related melanomas are on the back in men, and the legs and shoulders for women.”

To be vigilant, Professor Guitera recommends completing thorough, full body skin checks, to pick up any skin changes that may be melanoma.

This is how:

• Stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room.
• Begin by using a brush or hairdryer to part your hair into sections so that you can check your scalp. It may be easier to ask a partner or family member to check your scalp and other areas that you cannot see yourself, like your back.
• Check your face and neck, not forgetting your ears, nostrils and lips.
• When checking your arms, be sure to check underneath as well, and do not forget your fingernails.
• As you move down your body remember to check places that may not be exposed to the sun – remember that melanoma can be found in places that do not have exposed skin.
• The best way to monitor changes on your skin is by taking photographs every three to six months and comparing them to identify any changes.
• React quickly if you see something growing and/or changing by taking your concerns to your local healthcare professional.


4. Childhood sunburn can increase your risk of melanoma in the future.

Professor Guitera says that “the main preventable cause of melanoma is overexposure to UV radiation from the sun. Research has shown that UV exposure resulting in sunburn, particularly prior to puberty, increases your risk of developing melanoma”.

This is why it’s imperative that children are always protected from the sun.

Using the SunSense Sensitive Invisible range of sunscreen, which is pediatrician tested, is a great option for the younger members of the family (from six months and up). And the SunSense Ultra range includes roll-on tubes which are perfect for the kids' schoolbags to help keep them protected even when you aren’t around. Both are four hours' water resistant too. Just remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, or after sweating, swimming or towelling dry.


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5. You can do a lot to prevent it.

Professor Guitera stresses that it's important we follow all the prevention measures available to help protect our family's skin from sun damage, including melanoma.

The first crucial step is knowing exactly how to best apply sunscreen. Go with the seven-teaspoon rule: apply what would roughly equate to one teaspoon for each arm, each leg, another for your front, and one for your back. Apply half a teaspoon each to your face and your neck.

“Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, remembering to reapply every two hours and after exercise, swimming, or towelling dry,” she reminds us.

Combine that with “sun-protective clothing that covers your back, shoulders, arms and legs, a broad-brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses, and seek shade, especially in the hottest part of the day”, Guitera adds.

To further support the research of the Melanoma Institute of Australia, grab one of their Game on Mole t-shirts and make sure to pick up Australian made SunSense sunscreen at your local pharmacy today.

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Avoid prolonged sun exposure and wear protective clothing, hats and eyewear to further reduce risk. Frequent re-application is required.


This article was brought to you with thanks to our brand partner, SunSense.

Feature image: Getty.

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SunSense is dedicated to protecting sun aware Australians serious about protecting themselves and their families from the sun’s harmful rays.
From the 19th of January 2020 – 15th February 2020, $1 from every SunSense sunscreen purchased at Australian Pharmacies will go to the Melanoma Institute Australia who are dedicated to preventing and curing melanoma through innovative research, treatment and education programs. Up to the value of $170,000.
The SunSense range is specifically formulated using high quality ingredients to provide specialised choices for all ages and skin types including sensitive skin and the delicate skin of young children. All SunSense sunscreens are made in Australia. Available at your local pharmacy.