Be sun smart urges AFLW star Emily after skin cancer scare

Brisbane Lions AFLW star midfielder Emily Bates has been turning heads during pre-season training in Queensland as she sports a long sleeve guernsey, despite the heat.

The dual AFL Women’s All-Australian says being diagnosed with skin cancer at only 22 years old has made her a passionate advocate for sun safety.

Lucky call

Emily, who admits ‘pretty much spending her whole life outdoors’ since being a sports mad kid, says it was pure chance that led to her getting her skin assessed.

“I watched a documentary on skin cancer and given I have quite fair skin and there is history in my family, thought I’d better see the dermatologist,” she says. “I’m so glad I did!”

The elite athlete says her skin specialist was shocked to find she had multiple basal cell carcinomas or BCCs, the most common kind of skin cancer, at such a young age.

“I had to have six BCCs treated and cut out, including one from my head that left a 10 centimetre scar right through my hairline and down across my forehead,” she recounts.

“The dermatologist basically said I’m allergic to the sun, which has changed my whole approach to being outdoors. I don’t go anywhere now without long sleeves and a hat on.”

emily bates
Emily with her beloved Beagles Lenny and Chase

Covering up on the field

That goes for on the field too. As the 2019 season kicks off the former best-and-fairest says she’ll be lathering on the sunscreen and wearing long sleeves, unless games are scheduled late afternoon.

“You won’t miss me – I’ll be the one wearing visible zinc on my face because it doesn’t come off and I’ll be wearing it proudly,” she grins.

“People think a tan looks great but your health is so much more important. Most of my friends love the beach but when they see my scar, it’s easy to convince them to be sun smart.”

Partner and club in full support

There’s no doubt life is busy for Emily, now 23, and her life partner, team mate and fellow AFLW Brisbane Lions star Emma Zielke.

With a hectic training schedule, busy jobs and two active beagles at home to keep walked and entertained, Emily admits the couple don’t have much downtime.

But she says every spare moment will be spent reinforcing the sun safe message to try and prevent the spread of skin cancer among fans and the general community alike.

“I’d hate anyone to have a scare like I’ve had; it’s so quick and easy to put on some sunscreen and to grab a hat and a long-sleeved top and those simple acts can quite seriously save your life,” she says.

Read more from past AFLW stars here:

* The NAB AFL Women’s Competition runs from Saturday, February 2nd until Saturday March 30th, 2019. See the website for the full season fixture.

Image: Michael Wilson/AFL Media