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Think ‘Australian summer’ and your mind instantly wanders to visuals of a bright, beaming sun, a tip-toed sprint through sizzling hot sand, and bikini-clad bodies baking by the sea. While these are the old-as-time aesthetics of quintessential Australian beauty, these are also the long-held ideals that have resulted in over 15.3k diagnoses of melanoma in Australian men and women—and that’s just in 2019.
Melanoma—the most common cancer affecting 15-39-year-old Australians—is largely preventable (so much so that its large diagnosis rates have become more frustrating than anything), and journalist Lisa Patulny is on a journey to stop it, before it stops us. Patulny—together with her friend and two-time melanoma survivor, Natalie Fornasier—is the founder of Call Time on Melanoma (CTOM), a social initiative, in Patulny’s words; “that exists to reframe sun safety as self-care.”
According to Patulny, “CTOM is a go-to destination for (mostly) young women who want the truth about melanoma delivered in a way that feels relevant and isn’t shaming.” They share statistics, facts and stories, all while unpacking Australia’s problematic sun tanning culture. They also use the initiative to recommend products that make being sun-safe easy and fun – including our very own Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen. When planning our summer campaign, we knew that we couldn’t do it without Patulny and Fournasier on our side, collaborating with them to present Generation SPF: everybody, everywhere, every day. As part of the campaign, we caught up with Patulny to talk the status quo on SPF, the current deal with melanoma, and to unpack some serious truth bombs. Take notes.
READ MORE: Mecca Cosmetica x Call Time On Melanoma Presents: Generation SPF
Scroll through their Instagram feed, and you’ll notice that CTOM’s outlook is distinctively different from its peers; "my idea was to create an initiative that communicated important sun-safety messages in a relatable way. I didn’t want to use scare tactics or shame in our messaging because, for me, sun-safety should be a self-care thing.” The goal? To position CTOM as an educated BFF, rather than a nagging parent.
“To me,” shares Patuly, “it seemed obvious that we (young Australian women) are uniquely at risk due to factors like suntanning culture and the targeted marketing of suntan products.” And when it comes to the marketing of sun-safety products like sunscreen and rashies, there’s a strong misconception that needs to be dispelled; “sun-safety is for absolutely everyone, not just for people with fair features.” The founder continued; “we’ve long held an ideal of bronzed Australian beauty, and having a suntan is a big part of that. For many of us, sun-safety is reserved for those who ‘need it’, i.e. people with red hair, blue eyes and porcelain skin. People still believe a suntan is healthy, and the information that was out there was just not cutting through.”
“CTOM was originally intended as a place for Natalie to share her story, but has grown to be and represent so much more.” Now, CTOM is used as a platform to largely debunk the myths and miseducation surrounding sun damage—and subsequently, melanoma—to ensure all Australian women are aware about just how preventative the illness is.
“A big myth is that it’s possible to suntan safely. It’s not. Tanning is skin cells in trauma trying to protect themselves against cancer. A suntan is proof the damage has occurred. One damaged skin cell is all it takes to start a melanoma growing.”
There really is no excuse. “Now in 2020 sun safety is pretty easy for most people,” says Patulny. "There are so many great options out there for beach cover-ups, rashies/sun tops, sunglasses and hats, not to mention A+ sunscreens and fake tans.” The pros of tanning include a touch of temporary colour, and according to Patulny, the cons list is longer and more serious; “permanent DNA damage to skin cells, cosmetic hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles” included.
“Prevention is everything so Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.” In addition to that, the journalist-turned-founder recommends that everyone knows and understands the risk factors, familiarises themselves with their moles, spots and dots—and to “act fast if one is bothering you.” She also suggests skin-checks by a professional on the regular (regular being yearly at minimum), and “being aware of your individual state of health.”
READ MORE: Our best sunscreen advice and SPF tips in time for summer
Anyone and everyone is susceptible to melanoma, so being on top of it is crucial. In order to help you understand the risks, we asked the CTOM founders to share their key pointers in identifying and understanding it. For your easy remembering, we’ve put it in point-form;
1. “Some people have a higher risk of getting melanoma (family history, etc) but it can happen to anyone.”
2. “Most often the first sign of melanoma is a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot. Other times, but more rarely, it may be symptomless.”
3. “Melanomas can grow relatively quickly but they can also lie dormant. Some sources say some melanomas can become life-threatening in as little as six weeks but depending on the type (yep, there’s more than one type), they can be more or less aggressive. It’s entirely possible to have had a mole from childhood that suddenly starts to change and exhibit signs of skin cancer.”
4. "Early diagnosis allows for better outcomes."
5. Self-checks are important. "According to the Cancer Council, up to 75% of patients detect their own recurring melanomas, however moles, spots and dots can look perfectly innocent to the naked eye and completely different (and possibly dangerous) under a dermatoscope."
To get clued-up on melanoma prevention and learn more about the Call Time on Melanoma initiative, head to calltimeonmelanoma.com.au. Or—for quick tips, stats, inspirational women and make-you-think memes on your feed, tap the follow button on the CTOM Instagram.
Sunscreen is the best anti-ageing skincare you can invest in. Importantly, it helps protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancers like melanoma—literally a lifesaver! With broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection our hydrating and makeup-friendly sun essentials are products you’ll actually want to wear. So slip on our sunscreen and spread the word: we are Generation SPF. Are you in?
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