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Be sunwise: what to look for and what to do if you find something
Skin Institute
January 20, 2015

Although the kids have headed back to school and the long, hot beach days of the summer holidays might seem to be a thing of the past, this is the time of the year to be especially careful about your exposure to the sun.


Although the majority of skin cancer is avoidable,the Cancer Society reckons that more than 90% of cases are attributable to excess sun exposure – and while we might think that sunscreen and hats go alongside togs and ice cream, New Zealand’s extreme levels of UV last right through until April.


This means that it’s vital to stick to the Skin Institute’s guidelines for being safe in the sun:


  • Avoid the strongest sun between 11am and 4pm and always wear a hat, long sleeves and sunglasses if you have to be outside.
  • Wear clothes with an SPF factor and put sunscreen on exposed skin.
  • Sunscreen should be SPF30+ or higher and should be applied 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied after contact with water, when sweating or every 2 to 4 hours.


Prolonged exposure to the sun can weaken your skin and cause cosmetic damage for which there are treatments such as topic therapy or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy.


But it’s also vital to know your risks of contracting skin cancer – for example it might seem obvious that you’re more in danger if you work outside, have light or fair skin and burn easily, but there are also other key factors such as having a family predisposition or are taking certain prescription drugs such as oral contraceptives and some types of antidepressants and antibiotics.


Because melanoma can spread quickly it’s important to check yourself regularly for signs. Key things to watch for are:


  • A new spot or existing freckle or mole that’s changed in colour, shape or size.
  • An itchy or bleeding mole or lesion (note that sometimes there are no symptoms).
  • Asymmetry; a spreading or irregular edge; a varied colour; a change in diameter; or a change in how it’s raised.


If you do find something which you’re worried about, it’s absolutely vital that you do something about it immediately. The Skin Institute has specialist staff who offer a free spot check  for one or two moles or lesions of concern.

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