GEGAC Aboriginal Health Worker Carmel Hood. Photo by Jake Lynch/GEGAC

By Troy Brown

Are you wearing your sunscreen and hat?

Many of us mob believe that Aboriginal people with dark skin do not have to worry about getting sunburned, or getting melanoma and other skin cancers.

While dark skin does provide some protection against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, it is a myth that people with dark skin tones are immune to the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer, and it kills more people than any other skin cancer.

Dark skin sometimes means that melanoma isn’t noticed right away, and diagnoses are often delayed, sometimes until the disease is advanced and potentially fatal.

So, while melanoma is much more common among lighter-skinned people, it tends to be more deadly among people of colour.

GEGAC Aboriginal Health Worker Carmel Hood grew up in Wiseleigh, near Bruthen, where she lived with her mother and father and seven siblings.

Carmel remembers spending a lot of time outside in the sun as a kid, playing netball, or going down to the Bruthen River where she would swim all day.

She never thought to put on any sunscreen, or to wear a hat.

“I never thought black people could get melanoma,” she says. “There wasn’t much education around it.”

So, she would always just go out in the sun without wearing any protection.

In 2019, Carmel was diagnosed with a melanoma on her face.

After two surgeries to remove the melanoma, Carmel now takes a lot more care when out in the sun, and has become an advocate for mob to do the same.

As we approach the beginning of what is expected to be a long and hot summer, Carmel’s message is clear.

“You’ve got to wear a hat, you’ve got to wear sunscreen,” she says. “On really hot and sunny days, if you can avoid being out in the middle of the day, that’s good.”

For those of us who use smartphones, Carmel recommends downloading a free app called SunSmart, by the Cancer Council, which tells you what the UV levels are in your area.

Australia has one of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world.

Along with sunburn and skin cancer, it can cause eye damage and premature ageing.

UV is always highest during the middle part of the day, and UV levels can still be high even when it’s cloudy.

So, listen to Aunty Carmel and start being sun smart.

It might save your life.

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