Australia’s most common type of cancer is skin cancer, also known as Melanoma. Most cases of melanoma are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation such as from sun rays. So how can we be sun safe?
Why is sun exposure good for us?
Getting some exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is beneficial to our health as UV radiation is a great natural source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important in maintaining strong and healthy bones and muscles.
How much sun should we be getting?
During summer we only need a few minutes of sun exposure on most days to meet our vitamin D requirements.
For the northern parts of Australia, UV radiation still remains fairly high all-year-round, therefore a few minutes of sun exposure on most days is still adequate during our colder months. However, for the southern parts of Australia, the UV radiation is slightly less intense during winter, therefore only 2-3 hours of sun exposure per week is required to meet vitamin D requirements.
How can we spend time in the sun safely?
You can stay safe in the sun by following the Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide guide:
- Slip on sun-protective clothing that covers the majority of your skin including your back, arms and legs.
- Slop on a broad-spectrum SPF 50+ sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. You should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after activities which could wear off our sunscreen such as swimming or exercise. As a guide, you should aim to apply around 1 teaspoon of sunscreen per body part (e.g. arm, back of torso and face/neck).
- Slap on a broad-brimmed or bucket hat which protects your face, ears and neck from direct sunlight.
- Seek shade from the sun with a sunshade, under a tree or a building.
- Slide on a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage.
A combination of these 5 sun safety steps protects you from excessive UV radiation which could cause skin cancer.
The UV index is UV radiation tool to know how much sun protection you need. The UV index level changes depending on the time of day, usually peaking towards the middle of the day.
- UV index levels 1-2: no sun protection is required, unless your skin is very fair.
- UV index levels 3-7: sun protection is required and you should seek shade when the temperature is highest.
- UV index levels 8-11+: higher sun protection is required and you should avoid being outside when the temperature is highest.
You can check the current and predicted UV levels online, through your phone’s weather app or the Cancer Council’s SunSmart app.
Regularly check your skin for new spots or changes in spots such as
Stay Sun Safe!
Find more of our health tips here.
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Cancer Council Australia. Be SunSmart. https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/be-sunsmart
Cancer Council Australia. How much sun is enough? https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/immigranthealth/CCA_Vitamin_D_brochure.pdf
Melanoma Institute Australia. How to Prevent Melanoma. https://melanoma.org.au/about-melanoma/how-to-prevent-melanoma/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAvqGcBhCJARIsAFQ5ke7z3vNB0QSkKC6ls-F8OJN_j__ShtGEB4wdrzJ0546_UUFioUiTve8aAiRCEALw_wcB