Michael Bryce, left, with Dr Peter Yorke. Both men have had skin cancer. Photo: Graham Tidy
Michael Bryce describes himself as ''a walking example of skin cancer'' having grown up in Queensland as a fair-skinned boy with no awareness of the danger of UV exposure.
Skin checks and ''constant procedures'' to remove skin cancers have become a routine part of life for the Governor-General's husband as his formative years take their toll.
''That's all come back to bite me in later years and that's the message I hope we can get across to young people,'' he said.
As patron of the Cancer Council ACT, Mr Bryce used his last month in Government House to acknowledge the work the council has done in fighting cancer, but said more is needed.
''Over the years, primary schools and childcare facilities have changed the way young people are protected from harmful sun rays … I'm afraid to say this is not the case in Canberra secondary schools,'' he said.
''It is rare for a secondary school to have a hats policy for students and staff and sunscreens are not readily available.
''We know adolescents don't want to be walking around in dorky hats … but this is why Cancer Council ACT wants secondary schools to heed the evidence, provide sun protection [and] sunscreen.''
As an enticement to schools to implement sun policies, the Cancer Council is selecting schools to distribute a $1 million donation from eftpos to improve shade cover.
Australian adolescents have the highest incidence of malignant melanoma in the world.
Melba Copland principal Michael Battenally said teenagers are now well educated about the risks of sun exposure, but continue to ''think they are bulletproof''.
''It's very challenging to get kids to cover up and stay in the shade,'' he said.
Dr Peter Yorke is keen to change the bulletproof attitude. A peeling nose and blistered shoulders were the norm for him growing up, unaware of what lay ahead. He has a prominent scar on his forehead where a melanoma lesion was removed five years ago, but it had spread to his lungs and liver, and he's awaiting his results of a new treatment.
''You can tell kids until the cows come home you shouldn't do it, but I can say look here, I've got a big skin cancer there and I've got it in my lungs and it kills people,'' he said.
''It might be 20 years but you'll start getting skin damage - and melanoma is only one [type].''