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 cut your risk.

UV radiation and skin cancer

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.

UV index

UV radiation cannot be seen or felt and skin damage may occur even in cooler weather. In Queensland, the UV index is usually 3 or higher throughout the year, even in winter. Queenslanders should protect their skin from the sun all year round. Download the free SunSmart app on IOS or Android to access a free daily UV alert.

Protect your skin – stay SunSmart every day

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

  • With fair skin, fair or red hair and blue eyes.
  • With a large number of moles on their skin.
  • Who have spent a lot of time outdoors.
  • Who have spent a lot of time actively tanning or have used solariums.
  • Who have had a previous diagnosis of skin cancer or a family history of skin cancer.
  • With a history of severe or blistering sunburns.

Protect your skin every day with a combination of these five steps:

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.

To find out what your workplace, school, early childhood service or sporting club can do to help everyone to stay SunSmart every day, register to Cancer Council Queensland’s free online healthy lifestyle program – QUEST at


Cancer Council Queensland recommends using SPF30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen together with the other four sun protection steps to protect against sun damage when the UV level is 3 and above.

Find out the answers to some frequently asked sunscreen questions.


Reactions to sunscreen can be a result of a sensitivity or allergy to any of the many ingredients used in these products. Sensitivities to sunscreen are complex, range from mild to severe, and can link to a range of co-factors, including sunlight, other allergens or medications. Read more about sunscreen reactions.

Nanoparticles and sunscreen

Regular sunscreen use is proven to prevent melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. Nanotechnology has been used in sunscreens for many years. To date, the best available evidence is that nanoparticles in sunscreen do not pose a risk. Read more about nanoparticles and sunscreen .


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.

More information

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

You can also visit Cancer Council’s cut your cancer risk website.

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.