UV photos drive home dark side of soaking up the sun

THIS startling image shows what happens when you expose a face to UV rays.

When SunSense ambassador and TV presenter Carrie Bickmore had her face screened for sun damage she was horrified by the results.

''Before you get it done, you think it will be fine,'' she says. ''The average [UV rating] is 60 or 66 [100 being best and 0 being worst]. I was 42 … which means I have a lot of sun damage and haven't looked after my skin.''

The pigmentation on Carrie's skin shows UV damage to the deep layers of her skin, said biochemist Dr Kerryn Grieve.

"The lighter patch on her forehead is possibly from a fringe in childhood," she explained. "Underneath the lip there is very little freckling as well, where the lip overhangs slightly."

While the screens do not detect or predict skin cancer and there is an element of genetics involved, Grieve said about 95 per cent of skin cancer is a result of sun exposure.

The purpose is to show how much underlying UV damage people have so that they can get their skin checked more regularly and make a concerted effort to protect it.

"It is possible to repair some of the damage if we give the skin a chance," Grieve said.

There are more than 10,000 melanoma cases diagnosed in Australia each year, and is the most prevalent cancer in young Australians aged 15 to 29, while two in three Australians will develop skin cancer before the age of 70.

Bickmore, who grew up in Perth, says like most Australians she spent plenty of time as a child mucking around in the sun.

''Mum always made me put sunscreen on but I wasn't vigilant about reapplying every couple of hours.

''So many people lose their lives to cancers that aren't preventable. Skin cancer is preventable though.''

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