WE’RE being warned to be wary of just how much time we spend in the sun this Australia Day long weekend.
Queensland Health has partnered with Surf Life Saving Queensland to remind us just how dangerous it is.
It’s estimated that 2.1 million adults and 394,000 children were sunburnt in the Sunshine State last year. More than 240,000 of those people were on the Gold Coast, of whom 27,000 developed blistering skin.
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“That’s half the population,” said Acting Public Health Physician, Dr Andre Wattiaux.
Over the Australia Day long weekend alone, 43 people were burnt so badly in Queensland, they had to be hospitalised.
Dr Wattiaux said the statistics were “concerning”, with evidence showing getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma.
He said using sunscreen correctly could reduce the prevalence of all skin cancers by 10 to 15 percent, and daily use could reduce the risk of melanoma by an incredible 75 percent.
“We are urging Queenslanders to make sun safety a priority, to reduce their skin cancer risk, and avoid a really uncomfortable few days following sunburn,” Dr Wattiaux said.
“Australia Day falls around the hottest part of the year and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels are extreme.
“Unprotected skin will burn in under 10 minutes, so if you are spending the weekend at the beach or outdoors it is important to use combination of the five sun safe behaviours.
“Last year our emergency departments saw 43 presentations for sunburn over the Australia Day period, which has increased four-fold in the last five years – and that’s just the number of people sunburnt so badly that they attended an emergency department.”
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with about 3600 Queenslanders diagnosed with melanoma each year.
“It’s extremely concerning that some people are getting sunburnt so badly they need emergency care,” Ms McMillan said.
“Sunburn isn’t just painful – it’s a sign UV rays have damaged your skin; the sunburn might fade but the UV damage remains and increases your risk of skin cancer.”
Ms McMillan urged Queenslanders to keep sun protection top-of-mind this Australia Day.
“Many of us will be taking advantage of the long weekend by spending time outdoors, however, at this time of year, the UV levels hit extreme and unprotected skin could burn in as little as 10 minutes,” Ms McMillan said.
“Whether you’re cracking out the cricket set, or heading to the coast or your local dam, you need to follow all five sun-protective behaviours.
“Slip on protective clothing, Slop on minimum SPF30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunglasses.
“Where possible, people should avoid excess sun exposure, especially during periods of extreme heat and UV, keep cool and drink as much water as possible.
“It’s also crucial that families apply sunscreen properly – apply one teaspoon per limb, for the front and back of the torso, face and neck, including ears, 20 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply at least every two hours.”
Sun protection is required when the ultraviolent (UV) index is 3 and above, which is all year round in Queensland, and can even be from as early as 7.20am in summer.