Sun protection

The vast majority of skin cancers, including melanoma, are caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as solariums.

Queensland has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. However, by staying SunSmart every day you can reduce your exposure to UV radiation and reduce your risk.

UV radiation and skin cancer

UV radiation is an invisible danger because we can’t see or feel it. Each time your skin is exposed to UV radiation, the skin cells and how they behave is affected. Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun or solarium use causes permanent damage that adds up over time.

Protecting your skin from the sun and other forms of UV exposure is important at any age, but sun protection is especially important during childhood and adolescence. To learn more about appropriate sun protection for infants aged 0-12 months, view Cancer Council Australia’s position statement.

Sun protection is required when the UV levels reach 3 and above. In Queensland, sun protection is required all year, even in winter, due to consistently high UV levels. Download the free SunSmart app on IOS or Android to access a free daily UV alert.

Protect your skin – stay SunSmart every day

To minimise your skin cancer risk protect your skin every day with a combination of these five steps:
SSIcons

Slip on protective clothing that:

  • Covers as much skin as possible, for example, shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars.
  • Is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen.
  • Is dark in colour to absorb UV radiation (white and lighter colours reflect UV radiation onto skin).
  • If used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.

Slop on SPF30 or higher sunscreen that is:

  • Broad spectrum and water resistant.
  • Applied liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapplied every two hours.
  • Used with other forms of protection such as hats and shade.

Slap on a hat that is:

  • Broad-brimmed and provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers (caps and visors do not provide adequate protection).
  • Made with closely woven fabric – if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through.
  • Worn with sunglasses and sunscreen to increase your level of protection.

Seek shade by:

  • Making use of trees or built shade structures, or bring your own pop-up tent or umbrellas.
  • Making sure your shade structure casts a dark shadow and using other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.

Slide on sunglasses:

  • That are close-fitting wrap-around style that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067 and provide an Eye Protection Factor (EPF) of 9 or above.
  • With a broad-brimmed hat to reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent.
  • To children as well as adults.

For more information refer to the Cancer Council position statement or find out the answers to some frequently asked sunscreen questions.

To find out what your workplace, school, early childhood service or sporting club can do to help everyone to stay SunSmart every day, and to access a variety of sun protection resources (posters, factsheets, policy templates, videos, etc) register to Cancer Council Queensland’s free online healthy lifestyle program QUEST

Early Detection

While everyone is at risk of skin cancer, those who are at greater risk include people:

  • Fair or freckled skin, especially if it burns easily and doesn’t tan.
  • Red or fair hair and light-coloured eyes (blue or green).
  • Experienced short, intense periods of exposure to UV radiation, e.g. on weekends or holidays or when playing sport, especially if it caused sunburn.
  • Actively tanned or used solariums/sunbeds.
  • Worked outdoors.
  • A weakened immune system, which could be caused by taking certain medications after an organ transplant (immunosuppressants) or being HIV positive.
  • Lots of moles on their body
  • Moles with an irregular shape and uneven colour (dysplastic naevi).
  • A previous or family history of skin cancer.
  • Certain conditions such as sunspots.

Most skin cancers can be successfully treated if found early. But without treatment, skin cancer can be deadly.

Getting to know your skin and what is normal for you will help you identify changes earlier. Check all of your skin, not just sun exposed areas, and report any changes to a doctor as soon as possible.

Solariums

Sunbed or solarium use is associated with the early onset of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. No solarium can provide a safe tan. In Queensland, a state-wide ban of commercial solariums became effective on December 31, 2014. To find out more view Cancer Council’s position statement on solariums.

Vitamin D – how much sun is enough

In Queensland where UV levels are high all year round, most people receive adequate sun exposure to produce vitamin D through their daily incidental activities. These activities include hanging out the washing, checking the letterbox or walking to and from your car. If you are concerned that you might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, speak to your GP about testing and treatment options.

For more information regarding skin cancer, speak to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only. See our disclaimer.