Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Why?
Wearing SPF and sun protective clothing is a smart idea no matter where in the world you are living or vacationing. However, some countries have higher rates of skin cancer than others. Australia, in particular, has long been recognized as a hotbed of skin cancer. With over 750,000 diagnosed cases each year, Australia has two to three times more cases of skin cancer than found in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Why does Australia have such high rates of skin cancer, and what does that mean for you if you live there or are planning on visiting?
Much of the population has fair skin
While it’s true that anyone can get skin cancer, it’s undeniable that fair-haired, fair-skinned people are the most susceptible. Fair-skinned people have less melanin than their darker skinned peers. Since melanin is a protective pigment, it leaves them at greater risk of skin cancer and other sun-related skin damage, such as sunburn. Most Australians have fair skin and, in addition, are often exposed to the sun frequently as children—the fun-loving, outdoor-oriented culture makes sure of this. Children who have frequent sunburns are more at risk than others of eventually getting skin cancer as adults.
Tanning is a part of the culture
We’ve all heard the phrase “healthy tan.” It’s meant to describe a person who is active, fit, and spends plenty of time in the great outdoors. These are all positive qualities, indeed—but one thing a tan isn’t is “healthy.” Australians in particular are prone to believe this assumption. According to Cancer Council Australia, almost half of Australian adults believe that a tan looks healthy. Furthermore, it’s more than possible to enjoy healthy outdoor activities while still protecting your skin from a sunburn or a tan. Wear SPF, sun protective clothing, and make sure you have access to shade if you need it.
There are high UV radiation levels
Australia has some of the highest UV radiation levels in the world. So, in addition to some cultural reasons for the country’s high rates of skin cancer, there are some intrinsic ones as well. September through April are the most at-risk months, so if you’re planning on visiting during that window do make sure to bring sun protective clothing, eyewear, and SPF lotion.
The high rate of skin cancer throughout Australia is something to be aware of, but don’t let that stop you from getting out and enjoying the outdoors! With preparation, you can be sure to have plenty of fun in the sun while still staying safe.