Protect yourself in five ways from skin cancer
1. Slip on protective clothing
- Clothing that covers as much skin as possible
- Materials that have a close weave for higher UV protection
- Darker colours which absorb more UV radiation
- Cotton, polyester/cotton and linen materials. They are lightweight, cool to wear and when tightly woven can protect against 95% of UV radiation
- Material with high UV Protection Factor (UPF), which explains how much sun protection the material provides. Some clothing is treated to absorb UV
- Materials that maintain their sun protective value when wet, such as lycra
2. Slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen
Sunscreen should not be relied upon as the only form of sun protection.
No sunscreen provides 100% UV protection – remember to use in combination with protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.
Look for a sunscreen that:
- Has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
- Is labelled ‘broad spectrum’ – this will filter both UVA and UVB radiation
- Is water resistant – less likely to be washed off by water activities or sweat
- Meets Australian standards – look for ‘AUST L’ or ‘AS/NZS 2604:98’ on the label
- Has a valid expiry date
How to apply sunscreen:
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors to clean, dry skin
- Layer sunscreen onto exposed skin rather than rubbing it in
- Apply a thick layer of sunscreen – most people do not use enough
- Reapply every two hours or more often if in water, sweating or towel drying
- Remember your lips (a common skin cancer site). A zinc or lip balm will provide longer lasting protection than a cream
3. Slap on a hat
Slap on a hat that provides as much shade as possible to your face, head, neck, ears and eyes.
There are three main styles of hats that provide adequate sun protection:
- Broad brimmed hats – with a brim of at least 7.5cm
- Bucket or ‘surfie’ style hats – with a deep crown and brim of at least 6cm
- Legionnaire hats – with a flap that covers the back of the neck
Baseball caps and visors are not recommended as they leave the ears and the back of the neck exposed.
4. Seek shade
Staying in the shade is one of the most effective ways to reduce sun exposure, but remember:
- Other sun protection measures (clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) should also be used to avoid reflected UV radiation.
- Whatever you use for shade, be it trees, built shade structures or some form of portable shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow.
For information on obtaining funding for shade structures, please download the Funding shade fact sheet (pdf 777kb).
5. Slide on some sunglasses
Sunglasses can protect your eyes against UV radiation. When choosing sunglasses look for:
- Frames that fit close to the face
- Wrap around styles that reduce UV entering from the sides
- The Australian standard label.
All sunglasses sold in Australia must be tested and labelled according to the Australian/New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles
- Sunglasses that have an eye protection factor (EPF) of 10
- If you wear prescription glasses consider adding a UV protective coating, attaching protective shades or wearing prescription sunglasses
When to use sun protection
The best way to know when you need to use sun protection is to use the UV Index. The UV Index is a simple measure of the UV radiation level at the Earth’s surface. It has been designed to help people to avoid overexposure to high levels of UV radiation. The values of the Index range from zero upward and the higher the Index value, the greater the potential for damage to the skin and eyes, and the less time it takes for harm to occur.
You need to use sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or above, and when the UV Index reaches 8 or above you should take extra care and stay out of the sun if this is possible.
A daily UV forecast, including sun protection times, is available for over 600 Australian locations at the Bureau of Meteorology website or here at www.myUV.com.au. Make sure you choose the forecast for your area.
For more information on UV radiation levels and real-time UV readings, visit the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) website.