Understanding sun protection
The UV Index shows the intensity of the sun’s UV radiation. It can help you work out when to use sun protection. An index of 3 or above indicates that UV levels are high enough to damage unprotected skin, so sun protection is recommended. The recommended daily sun protection times (see Protecting your skin) are when UV levels are forecast to be 3 or higher. These will vary according to where you live and the time of year.
Sun exposure and vitamin D
UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer, but it is also the best source of vitamin D, which is needed to develop and maintain healthy bones. The body can absorb only a limited amount of vitamin D at a time. Getting more sun than recommended does not increase your vitamin D levels, but it does increase your skin cancer risk. Most people reach adequate vitamin D levels through incidental exposure to the sun. When the the UV Index is 3 or above, this may mean spending just a few minutes outdoors on most days of the week.
Getting too much UV is not recommended, even for people with too little vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency). After a melanoma diagnosis, you will be at higher risk of further melanomas, and your doctor may advise you to limit your sun exposure as much as possible. In some cases, this may mean you don’t get enough sun exposure to maintain your vitamin D levels. If you are concerned about vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about how to get enough vitamin D while reducing your risk of further melanomas. Your doctor may advise you to take a supplement.
A/Prof Robyn Saw, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Prof Bryan Burmeister, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Fraser Coast and Hervey Bay Hospital, QLD; Tamara Dawson, Consumer, Melanoma & Skin Cancer Advocacy Network; Prof Georgina Long, Co-Medical Director, Melanoma Institute Australia, and Chair, Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Alexander Menzies, Medical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Paige Preston, Chair, Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia; Prof H Peter Soyer, Chair in Dermatology and Director, Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, and Director, Dermatology Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Julie Teraci, Clinical Nurse Consultant and Coordinator, WA Kirkbride Melanoma Advisory Service, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.