On Saturday, December 9, 2023, Sydney sweltered through a heatwave that saw our airport reach 43.5 degrees Celsius – a December record. Sydney was not alone, with other NSW locations climbing beyond 40C that day.

These high temperatures are set to continue, with experts calling for all Aussies to brace themselves for scorching temperatures up until at least April 2024.

As temperatures soar, it is important to remind ourselves of the importance of practicing sun safety.

Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of skin cancer, with two in three Aussies diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before 70 years of age.

Recently, the incidence of severe sunburn has rapidly increased among the younger population, with experts reinforcing the importance of sun safety.

According to the Cancer Institute NSW, the number of people seeking medical treatment for sun damage increased by 28 per cent over the past year, with the majority those afflicted aged between five to 24 years.

These spikes in sun exposure in young people are of particular concern, with sun exposure in the first 10 years of life nearly doubling the risk of a person developing melanoma skin cancer.

Skin cancer is characterised by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin. There are three main types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. BCC and SCC, also known as non-melanoma skin cancers, are far more common than melanoma, with BCC and SCC cancers comprising 66 per cent and 33 per cent of skin cancers, respectively.

Alternatively, melanoma comprises one to two per cent of all skin cancers. It is considered the deadliest form of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not identified and treated early.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma worldwide. Each year in Australia, an estimated 17,800 people are diagnosed with invasive melanoma (where it has spread into the dermis/skin layer), while 27,500 people are diagnosed with melanoma in situ (where it is confined to the outer layer of skin, or the ‘epidermis’).

To lower our risk for developing melanoma, we need to prioritise sun protection from a very young age and into adulthood, particularly given 95 per cent of skin cancers are caused by UV radiation.

The good news is that sun damage and skin cancers are highly preventable by adhering to five simple steps – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide.


While it is not uncommon for people to associate the risk of developing skin cancer with long, sun-drenched days spent at the beach, it is vital nonetheless, to recognise that skin cancer risk extends beyond our initial, obvious perceptions.

According to the Cancer Council, if the UV is above three, we should be practicing sun safety.
Even on cloudy, rainy, or windy days, sun protection is necessary. In fact, on cloudy days, the UV rays could be more intense due to their reflection off the clouds.

To stay sun safe this summer, get your skin checked, practice slip, slop, slap, seek, slide, and take action to protect your skin!