Use sun protection

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia. The main risk factor associated with all types of skin cancer is overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. When UV levels are 3 and above, Cancer Council recommends you use a combination of sun protection measures when outdoors for more than a few minutes to reduce your skin cancer risk.

Some exposure to the sun is healthy. Vitamin D, which is needed to develop and maintain healthy bones, is produced in the body when skin is exposed to UV radiation in sunlight. UV levels vary across Australia, according to the location, the season and the time of day. This means the amount of time you need to be in the sun to make enough vitamin D will vary. Short incidental sun exposure, such as walking from the office to get lunch on most days of the week, can be a good way to maintain vitamin D levels.

Some cancer treatments may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, causing it to burn or be damaged by the sun more quickly or easily than before. Ask your treatment team if this applies to you.


Protecting your skin from the sun

When UV levels are 3 or above, be SunSmart. Find a way to make sun protection part of your everyday routine, e.g. by having sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat within easy reach before going outside.

slip on clothing

SLIP on clothing
Wear clothing that covers your shoulders, neck, arms, legs and body. Choose closely woven fabric or fabric with a high ultraviolet protection factor rating.

SLOP on sunscreen
Use an SPF 30+ or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen. Use a water-resistant product for sports and swimming. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before going out and reapply every two hours, or  after swimming or any activity that causes you to sweat or rub it off.

protect children

SLAP on a sun-safe hat
Wear a hat that shades your face, neck and ears. This could be a wide-brimmed, bucket or legionnaire-style hat. Adult hats should have at least a 7.5 cm brim. Hats for children aged under 8 years should have at least a 5 cm brim, and hats for children aged 8–12 should have at least a 6 cm brim.

SEEK shade
Use shade from trees, umbrellas, buildings or any type of canopy. Shade is very effective at reducing UV exposure, however, UV radiation is reflective and can bounce off surfaces, such as concrete, water, sand and snow. It is wise to use other forms of UV protection as well, such as sunscreen and clothing.

SLIDE on sunglasses
Protect your eyes with sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Wraparound styles are best. Sunglasses should be worn all year round.

Check sun protection several times every day
Use the SunSmart UV Alert to check daily sun protection times in your local area. It is available as a free smartphone app, online (sunsmart.com.au or bom.gov.au/uv) or in the weather section of daily newspapers.


This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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