Cancer Council Queensland has issued a reminder to schools and early childhood centres, warning them not to become complacent about sun safety as summer turns into autumn.
The UV Index can remain dangerously high throughout all seasons in Queensland, increasing the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage.
Research shows high sun exposure in the first 10 years of life more than doubles an individual’s risk of melanoma later in life.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan urged schools and centres to keep up sun safe practices throughout autumn to protect students.
“There is no link between temperature and the UV index – in Queensland UV levels can remain high, despite temperatures decreasing as the seasons change,” Ms McMillan said.
“We’re urging teachers to think UV, not temperature, to help advise students when it’s time to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.
“Cancer Council’s National Primary School SunSmart Survey found only 18 per cent of Queensland schools surveyed used UV levels to determine when sun protection was needed.
“Sun protection is required when the UV level is three or above. UV levels can remain particularly high in Autumn, at times reaching extreme levels of 11 or 12.
“The best defence again sunburn is to use multiple methods of protection, including wearing a hat, sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors, and finding shade where possible.
“Sunburn in childhood significantly increases the risk of skin cancer later in life – it’s our responsibility to ensure children are taught SunSmart habits from an early age.”
In an effort to help schools and early childhood centres improve sun safe policies and protect the next generation, Cancer Council has invited schools to register for the National SunSmart Program.
More than 265,000 students in schools or early childhood centres are currently protected by the program – 34 per cent of schools and services statewide.
“We’re calling on schools to revitalise their SunSmart status to help us protect Queensland’s next generation against the tragic toll that older Queenslanders have experienced as a result of preventable skin cancers,” Ms McMillan said.
“We’d like to see more than 50 per cent of schools on board by the end of 2018.
“Joining the National SunSmart program is the first of many simple steps your school or centre can take to develop sun safe policies and help reduce skin cancer rates.”
Schools and early childhood services can apply online at cancerqld.org.au/national-sunsmart-program/.
“Through the program we provide guidance and support to schools and early childhood centres to ensure they have an adequate sun safe policy, and encourage them to implement SunSmart hats and uniforms, encourage sunscreen use and provide shade,” Ms McMillan said.
“Teaching sun safety practices to children throughout their learning years helps to shape healthy long term habits.”