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I-rish I knew then what I know now about UV

Friday 26 November, 2010 by Cairín

This week is National Skin Cancer Action Week, which aims to raise awareness of skin cancer in Australia. 30 years on after the inception of Slip! Slop! Slap! in Victoria, the message is still not getting through to some people.

Cancer Council research shows young people are still putting themselves at risk, with more than half (57%) of 13-17 year olds expressing a desire for a tan and 42% saying it makes them feel more attractive.

In essence, today's teenagers are putting vanity before sanity and taking the risk because they don't think skin cancer will happen to them.

I can understand where this attitude comes from as I too used to prescribe to the same school of thought back in my teens and early 20s.

Everyone knows that tanned fat looks better than white fat, right?

Growing up in Ireland, where the rain rarely stops pouring down and the temperature rarely gets above 20, I spent my youth lobbing on the SPF 4 coconut oil whenever I caught a glimpse of the sun.

Until I was diagnosed at the age of 24 with an early stage melanoma on my left arm. Back then I didn't even know what a melanoma was... Imagine my surprise when I learnt it was cancer. Astonishment, fear and disbelief are just some words that come to mind.

Apparently skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in Ireland, the land of wind, cloudy skies and rain. How on earth is that possible, I hear you ask?

Well, my friends, a few explanations come to mind. 

The second a glimmer of sunlight emerges, immediately all Irish people like to get their kit off. It isn't uncommon on a rare sunny Irish Saturday to see lots of topless, hairy chested, beer-bellied men wandering around the place, mowing their lawns or sitting in the park, steadily going a nice crispy red colour.

Come Monday, everyone arrives into work red faced and sunburnt but delighted with the bit of nice weather. 

The other reason is that about 80-85% of the sun's rays can pass through clouds so even in overcast Ireland you need to remember to use sun protection. Ultraviolet radiation is a crafty little scamp ... you never know when it's going to fry your skin, which is why you need to get in the habit of checking the UV Index every day so you can protect yourself when the UV is high.

As part of National Skin Cancer Action Week, Cancer Council Victoria is launching the new SunSmart app for iPhones. This super handy app is completely free. Within a few clicks, you can find out the weather, temperature, ultraviolet (UV) level and sun protection times for the day anywhere in Australia.

Wave goodbye to sun scorched skin and accidental sunburn. The SunSmart app makes sure you won't be caught out without sun protection when you need it most! So that conniving UV radiation won't getcha!

Skin cancer happens to everyone - young, old, tanned, pale, Irish or Australian. Don't get caught out this summer - check the SunSmart app every day on your iPhone and embrace the pale look this summer!

The app is available from the iTunes App Store so download it today.

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