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Skin Cancer Is No Laughing Matter

By Rupert Truscott-Hughes on December 25, 2014 in Other

Photo: Lea Therskin

Photo: Lea Therskin

I don’t usually take to my typewriter to express anything particularly serious, but given the backlash from the article I procured last month (which resulted in Waverley Council briefly pulling their advertising from The Beast), I thought it best that I tone down the poor taste gags a bit and try to pen something that actually provokes some thought and even possibly incites some action (yes, this month I do want to incite action, unlike last month when I was simply being facetious).

As you all know it’s been a pretty pleasant start to spring, and the weekends have been littered with so-called ‘beach days’. Photos of a packed-to-capacity Bondi Beach have saturated social media channels as Mr Aquabumps Eugene Tan and all his infatuated copycats blast out images of stunning sunny days and bronzed beachgoers into the ether to be consumed by jealous followers all around the world.

Yes, what a wonderful place Australia is. But let’s not forget, oh spiritual Eastern Suburbites, that with the ying must come some yang. Australia, though warm and beachy, is essentially cursed by the very thing that makes it so wonderful. The beaches and bays and rivers and sunshine that lure us from our lairs are also largely responsible for what is commonly known as ‘the Australian cancer’ – skin cancer.

Every year in Australia, skin cancers account for around 80 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers and between 95 and 99 percent of these are caused by exposure to the sun. The incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world, two to three times that of Canada, the US and the UK.

When I was young I used to lie in the sun for hours on end coated with cooking oil in order to achieve the perfect all-over tan. Even when I became alerted to the dangers of skin cancer I joked that there’d be a cure by the time I became afflicted. I was wrong.

To date, I’ve had several basal cell carcinomas cut from my body and my back is now home to more divots than a driving range for the disabled. It looks like a rockmelon after someone has taken to it with an ice-cream scoop.

I live in fear of falling victim to the pitfalls of melanoma and check my moles more frequently than I check on my widowed mother in her nursing home. I feel as though it will only be a matter of time before it claims me.

So basically, my message to all readers of The Beast out there is to please slip, slop, slap and wrap this summer. Stay out of the sun in the danger hours between 11am and 3pm when the it is at its most potent and if you haven’t done so in the last 12 months or so, make an appointment with your GP or a skin cancer specialist and get your skin checked.

If there is one thing worse than parking rangers (just joking – I love parking rangers) it’s skin cancer. Don’t let your vanity make decisions for you. There really is no such thing as a safe tan.