Doctors push for skin checks

Sammi Kennedy, Avalon Roberts, 2 and Siobhan O’Reilly of Byron Bay all have regular check-ups for skin cancer.
Sammi Kennedy, Avalon Roberts, 2 and Siobhan O’Reilly of Byron Bay all have regular check-ups for skin cancer. Doug Eaton

SUMMER has ended but the damage to your skin may already be done.

According to the Know Your Own Skin initiative launched last week, one instance of sunburn can lead to potentially deadly sun spots.

And while two out of three Australians are expected to get skin cancer by the age of 70, only a small percentage will have had a check-up in the past year.

A group of Australian physicians started the initiative in the hope it will raise awareness about the disease and ultimately change Australia's sun-bathing culture.

"All Australians are at risk of developing sun damage-related skin conditions due to our past sun-bathing habits and the inevitable exposure we all get to the sun's UV rays," Know Your Own Skin co-creator and dermatologist Dr Stephen Shumack said.

"As a skin expert, it's a concern such a low number of people have had their skin checked in the past 12 months."

The North Coast is well known for its beach culture. Sammi Kennedy of Byron Bay said she was often at the beach and in the sun.

"I'm in the sun so much because I work outdoors," the personal trainer said.

However, Ms Kennedy said she always wore sunscreen and routinely had skin cancer check-ups.

"I get it every year and most of my friends do, too," she said.

Ms Kennedy's beach-buddy Siobhan O'Reilly knew first-hand the dangers of skin cancer.

"My mum had some skin cancers cut out of her," she said.

"So I went and had a check-up just over a year ago."

As part of the campaign, Know Your Own Skin made an iPhone application available which enabled people to monitor their skin for potential cancers.

"The Know Your Own Skin iPhone app and educational tools are aimed at anyone who has spent time in the sun, been burnt or spent long periods outdoors," Dr Shumack said.

Ms Kennedy said she would use the iPhone application.

Know Your Own Skin ambassador and former surf lifesaving ironman champion Guy Leech has advocated greater public awareness of skin cancer.

"After 30 years of training and competing on our beautiful Australian beaches, I'm now seeing the damage show up on my skin, despite having tried my best to cover up with sunscreen and clothing," Mr Leech said.

"I was lucky to catch the damage early so it could be treated before the sun spots had a chance to devel- op into something more serious."

Dr Shumack urged people to have regular check-ups.

"Australians can limit their risk of skin cancer by understanding their own skin and conducting a simple skin check at the start of each season," he said.

"People should also ask their family doctor to include a skin check as part of a routine medical check-up."

For more information or to download the iPhone application, visit

Topics:  health iphone skin cancer

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