Did you know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun causes more than 95% of all skin cancers?

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is both a major cause of skin cancer and the best natural source for the body to produce vitamin D.

But it is important to take a balanced approach to UV exposure to help with vitamin D levels while minimising your risk of skin cancer by using a combination of sun protection methods.

Skin cancer kills nearly 2,000 Australians each year – more than the national road toll – and two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and it’s never too late for prevention, whether you’re six, 16 or 60.

How UV exposure increases cancer risk

UV radiation comes in different wavelengths called Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). Both UVA and UVB contribute to sunburn, skin ageing, eye damage, melanoma and other skin cancers. UVA penetrates deeply into the skin causing damage to cells, photo-ageing such as wrinkles and pigmentation, and immune-suppression. UVB penetrates the top layer of the skin causing damage to the cells and is the wavelength responsible for sunburn, a significant risk factor for melanoma. UV levels 3 and above are high enough to cause damage to most skin types.

How to best protect yourself from UV

To best protect yourself from UV rays it is best to follow the Australian Sun Smart program’s Slip, Slop, Slap! rules:

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing.
  • Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every two hours.
  • Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade.
  • Slide on sunglasses: make sure they meet Australian Standards.

UV differences throughout the year

From September to April

In Victoria from September to April, UV reaches damaging levels of 3 and above; increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Most people make enough vitamin D in summer because UV levels are high and more time is spent outdoors. During these months, most Victorians need just a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure for their vitamin D needs, and should be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.

From May to August

n Victoria from May to August (when UV levels generally fall below 3), people are encouraged to be outdoors around midday each day, with some skin uncovered. Being physically active outdoors will also help the body to make vitamin D. At these times, sun protection is not recommended unless near highly reflective surfaces such as snow, or when the UV reaches 3 and above. People with naturally very dark skin may need more sun exposure.

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes wrinkles and skin and eye damage, ultimately leading to skin cancer.

UV cannot be seen or felt. It is not like the sun’s light which we see, or the sun’s warmth (infrared radiation) which we feel. Our senses cannot detect UV so it can be damaging without us knowing. There is a huge variation in UV levels across Australia. The UV level is affected by a number of factors including the time of day, time of year, cloud cover, altitude, proximity to the equator, scattering and reflection.

Take away the guesswork by adding the free SunSmart widget to your website. The widget shows the sun protection times for you location in Australia, making it easier than ever to be smart about your sun exposure all year.

Today’s UV Alert brought to you by SunSmart and the BOM