Health experts stress sun safety as UV index reaches extreme

WITH health at the forefront of people's minds as they try their hardest to stick to their New Year's resolutions in the early days of 2019, experts are urging beachgoers not to forget the importance of sun safety.

EXTREME UV: Sun safety is vital in the summer months according to Cancer Council Queensland.

EXTREME UV: Sun safety is vital in the summer months according to Cancer Council Queensland.

With thousands of people hitting beaches, pools and backyards during summer, health experts warned that sun protection was of the utmost importance.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said sun safety was often a matter of understanding the way the sun works.

“It’s particularly important for us as we head into summer to reinforce the message that it’s ultraviolet radiation that is the major cause of skin cancer," she said.

"It doesn’t need to be hot or sunny [as] UV can’t be seen or felt.”

Ms McMillan said sun protection was required when the ultraviolet index was three or above, which in Queensland was all year round from as early as 7:20am in summer.

It was important for people to look at UV levels before going outside and to remember that sunburn could occur even on cool days, she added.

"Ensure you are using multiple methods of sun protection when the level is three or above,” she said.

In summer, extreme UV conditions are common in the middle of the day, with the UV index in Brisbane predicted to peak at 13 on January 2.

The Bureau of Meteorology classifies levels above 11 as extreme.

Ms McMillan also urged people to take a closer look at their sunscreen bottles and to understand what SPF numbers meant.

"[SPF is] the measure of how much UV gets through," she said.

"The higher the number, the less UV passes through. 

"An SPF of 30...filters 96.7 per cent of UV [and with] an SPF of 50, 98 per cent is filtered.

"It’s also important to remember that you can’t add the numbers together. For example, SPF20 moisturiser and SPF10 foundation used together don’t equal SPF30 protection.

"You will only be protected to the level of the highest SPF product applied."

In Queensland rates of melanoma deaths were 25 per cent higher than the national rate, Ms McMillan added.

She urged people to remember to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses to protect themselves against UV rays.

For long term skin health, Ms McMillan said prevention was better than a cure, and encouraged people to know their bodies and look out for any changes.

"Finding cancer early can increase the likelihood of successful treatment. 

"Without fretting or worrying, make it another [New Year's] resolution to get to know the regular look and feel of your body, keep an eye out for unusual changes, and commit to seeing a GP if you notice any changes."

Cancer Council Queensland provided a list of symptoms to look out for when performing self-skin checks.

The Melanoma Institute Australia also recommended an annual visit to a GP or dermatologist for a professional skin check.

Daily UV index predictions and UV tracking is uploaded by the Bureau of Meteorology and Cancer Council's SunSmart app.