The arrival of spring makes us all want to leap out of bed and make the most of the longer, brighter, warmer days. But while we’re able to see the daylight stretch out for longer and feel the temperature climb, there’s one rising threat that we need to keep in mind, and make sensible choices about.
What do UV levels mean?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a form of energy that comes from the sun and can’t be detected by any of our senses. This is a problem because UV radiation is also the major cause of eye damage, skin damage and skin cancer.
UV radiation is measured on an index where 0-2 is ‘Low’ and anything at 11 or higher is classified as ‘Extreme’. When UV is at a level of 3 or higher, sun protection is recommended.
Australia has some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world. In September, even Tasmania experiences an average UV level of 3, while in far north Queensland UV levels reach an average of 12.
It’s no surprise that we also have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70, and each year 2,000 die from the disease.
"Remember, UV levels can be high enough to damage skin even on days when it’s cool and cloudy."
What is the UV risk in spring?
As the weather heats up, so too does UV radiation risk. But there is good news. Because we know the major cause of skin cancer is UV radiation, by protecting ourselves from UV rays, we can help cut our cancer risk.
The even better news is that it doesn’t matter whether you are 16 or 60 – by being more careful to protect your skin, you can cut your skin cancer risk at any age. This is true even if you’ve already been diagnosed with a skin cancer in the past.
The best news? You probably already know exactly what to do. Yep, Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide. That’s slipping on clothing, slopping on SPF30 sunscreen, slapping on a broad-brimmed hat, seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses.
It’s also important to know your skin, and visit the doctor if you notice anything unusual. If skin cancer is caught early, it’s easier to treat.
Remember, UV levels can be high enough to damage skin even on days when it’s cool and cloudy. When you check the forecast to prepare for the day, don’t rely on the temperature, cloud cover or wind to determine whether you need sun protection. Instead, check the sun protection times for your location at the Bureau of Meteorology website, or on the free SunSmart app. These times show when the UV levels will be 3 or higher.
Don’t wait for summer – get into the habit of checking the sun protection times throughout spring. When you’re outdoors during these times, you know what to do.