Australians are being urged to take sun safety even more seriously than ever before after recent studies have suggested we’re still not doing enough to protect ourselves from skin-damaging UV rays. It’s now recommended that applying sunscreen should become part of our morning routine every day, just like brushing our teeth.

This advice was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health on Friday 25th January 2019 following a national Sunscreen Summit at QIMR Berghofer in Brisbane last year.

Led by Professor David Whiteman and Associate Professor Rachel Neale from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, the report advises that merely slapping on some lotion before venturing outside has become a thing of the past. Repeated, small doses of sunlight received through activities like watering the front lawn or hanging our the washing is enough to damage skin cells and cause skin cancer.

The report says Australians should use sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level is forecast to be three (3) or higher. In most cases, this means Australians should be applying sunscreen all year round even when it’s overcast and cold.

Associate Professor Neale said there was now clear evidence on the benefits of daily sunscreen use.

“Up until now, most public health organisations have recommended applying sunscreen ahead of planned outdoor activities but haven’t specifically recommended applying it every day as part of a morning routine,” she said.

“In Australia, we get a lot of incidental sun exposure from everyday activities such as walking to the bus stop or train station, or hanging out washing.

“In recent years, it has become clear that the DNA damage that causes skin cancer and melanoma accumulates with repeated small doses of sunlight.

“At last year’s Sunscreen Summit, we examined all of the evidence around sunscreen use and we have come to a consensus that Australians should apply sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level is forecast to be three or higher.

“For much of Australia, that means people should apply sunscreen all year round, but in areas like Tasmania and Victoria there are a few months over winter when sunscreen is not required**.”

Cancer Council Australia’s Prevention Advisor Craig Sinclair welcomed the recommendation, saying that if more people applied sunscreen every day as part of their morning routine, it could make a real difference in reducing skin cancer rates in the future.

“Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world and research shows that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer, including the deadliest form, melanoma,” he said.

“Worryingly, research from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey showed that nearly one in two Australians mistakenly believe that sunscreen can’t be used safely on a daily basis. “The advice is now simple: make sunscreen part of your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth.”

So what does this all mean for the people of Australia?

Simply put, immediately before or after brushing your teeth in the morning, apply sunscreen to all of the parts of your body which will or could be vulnerable to UV exposure throughout the day.

Australians must also keep in mind that sunscreen is not body armour and can not provide 100% protection against harmful UV rays. It should always be used in accordance to the directions on the label, reapplied frequently and in conjunction with protective clothing, hats and eyewear. Where possible, avoid prolonged sun exposure.

Media contacts

QIMR Berghofer: media@qimrberghofer.edu.au / 0458 650 200
Cancer Council Australia: media@cancer.org.au / 02 8063 4109
Australasian College of Dermatologists: roshan@dermcoll.edu.au / 0490 419 477
Public Health Association of Australia: communications@phaa.net.au / 0450 522 762

*The organisations that attended the Sunscreen Summit were:
• Australasian College of Dermatologists • Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Centre • Cancer Council Australia • Cancer Council New South Wales • Cancer Council Queensland • Cancer Council Victoria • Cancer Council Western Australia • Cancer Society New Zealand • Health Promotion Agency (New Zealand) • Melanoma Institute Australia • Melanoma Patients Australia • QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute • Queensland Health • Skin Cancer College Australasia • The Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc • Therapeutic Goods Administration • The University of Queensland • Victorian Melanoma Service.

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