Preventing skin cancer
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to excess UV radiation. Being SunSmart is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
Protect your skin
For best protection, Cancer Council recommends a combination of five sun protection measures:
- Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards, or after swimming, exercising or towel drying. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
- Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.
Apply sunscreen liberally – at least a teaspoon for each limb, front and back of the body, and one teaspoon for the face, neck and ears. This means that a full adult body application is equal to seven teaspoons (35ml) of sunscreen. Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen resulting in only 50-80% of the protection stated on the product. Reapply every two hours, or more regularly if you are perspiring or after swimming, sweating or towel drying.
What is UV?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a type of radiation that is produced by the sun and some artificial sources, such as solariums. The sun’s UV radiation is the major cause of sunburn, premature ageing, eye damage and skin damage leading to skin cancer.
The UV Index
The World Health Organization's Global Solar UV Index measures levels of UV radiation on a scale from 0 (Low) to 11+ (Extreme). Cancer Council recommends the use of sun protection whenever the UV levels are 3 (Moderate) or higher.
There is a huge variation in UV levels across Australia and UV levels can vary across the day. The UV level is affected by a number of factors including the time of day, time of year, cloud cover, altitude, proximity to the equator, scattering and reflection. UV cannot be seen or felt. It is not like the sun’s light which we see, or the sun’s warmth (infrared radiation) which we feel. Because we can’t sense UV radiation, we won’t know that it has damaged our skin until it is already too late.
Sun protection times
The sun protection times can tell you whenever UV levels are forecast to be 3 or higher. This makes it easier to know when you do and don’t need sun protection. These times are forecast each day by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Want to find out more?
If you require further information about skin cancer prevention call Cancer Council 13 11 20 (a local call from anywhere in Australia).
Read more about skin cancer.