Spring is finally here and we’ve started the season off with some beautiful weather across the state. But while some people may not be thinking about sun protection just yet, spring is an especially important time to be aware of ultra violet (UV) exposure.
UV levels are on the rise at this time of year, so it’s important that everyone in NSW understands that it’s UV – not heat, wind or sunlight – that causes sunburn and is the major cause of skin cancer. Sun protection is a must, even if the day feels a bit cool.
Last week, Cancer Council NSW released new data from the Cancer Council National Sun Protection Survey which found more than a third of NSW adults are still confused about what causes sunburn.
The survey results found 35% of adults did not realise that UV radiation is the only cause of sunburn, mistakenly claiming temperature (21%), and/or cloud cover, wind or humidity (14%) as useful measures of sunburn risk, or they couldn’t say (4%).
UV radiation is an invisible danger because it’s not like the sun’s warmth, which we feel, or the sun’s light, which we can see. UV rays are high enough to damage our skin even on cooler days in spring, so, if we’re relying on temperature to work out whether we need to protect our skin or not, we’re making a big mistake. Across NSW, UV levels are already high enough to cause permanent damage to our skin and eyes and it is easy to get sunburnt by being caught unaware.
Skin cancer statistics
It is predicted that 4,874 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year across NSW, with 600 deaths expected.(1) It is also estimated that there are more than 148,600 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed every year.(2)
Don’t wait for summer to protect your skin. Get into the habit of checking your local sun protection times every day. This will let you know when UV is expected to reach damaging levels of 3 or higher. Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide during these times to cut your cancer risk.
Most skin cancers can be prevented and we know how to do it. Here are our top tips:
- Slip on clothing
- Slop on sunscreen
- Slap on a hat
- Seek shade and,
- Slide on sunglasses
Even on a cloudy spring day like today, the UV level at 9.20am is already 3 and will reach 6 by early afternoon (see image from the SunSmart app).
1. Cancer incidence and mortality: projections 2011 to 2021 Cancer Institute NSW, Sydney: May 2011
2. Economic analysis of the social costs of skin cancer in New South Wales: Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle; Griffith University; University of New South Wales; Cancer Institute NSW: 2010