Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift debunks eight myths about sun protection to help Queenslanders stay sun safe all summer long.
In Queensland more than 324,200 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, and 3600 cases of melanoma, are diagnosed each year. Knowing fact from fiction will help you reduce your cancer risk and protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Myth 1: Sun damage is not possible on windy, cloudy or cool days – false. You can get sun damage in any weather as this is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, not temperature. Sun protection is required when the UV index is three or greater – in Queensland this is all year around. Check daily UV levels at cancer.org.au/SunSmartApp.
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Myth 2: Plenty of sun exposure is required to avoid vitamin D deficiency – false. Queenslanders shouldn’t expose themselves to potentially harmful UV in order to get more vitamin D. Just a few minutes of sun exposure in the early morning or late afternoon (outside peak UV periods) is sufficient.
Myth 3: You can stay outside for longer when you are wearing SPF50+ – false. No sunscreen is a suit of armour and sunscreen should never be used to extend the amount of time you spend in the sun. SPF50+ only offers marginally better protection than SPF30+, filtering 98 per cent of UV compared to 96.7 per cent, respectively.
Myth 4: Sunscreen is not necessary when using cosmetics with any level of SPF – false. Unless cosmetics are labelled with an SPF30 of higher, you should wear additional sunscreen under your makeup. If you’re outdoors for extended periods of time, re-apply it every two hours.
Myth 5: People with olive skin are not at risk of skin cancer – false. Regardless of skin type, exposure to UV radiation can cause skin to be permanently damaged. People with olive skin are actually more likely to detect their skin cancers at a later stage, emphasising the importance of protection, self-checks, and early detection.
Myth 6: Skin cancer is easy to treat so you don’t need to be too concerned – false. Skin cancer treatment can be much more serious that having a lesion burnt off. It can include surgery, chemotherapy, and can result in scarring. Skin cancer can also spread to other parts of your body. If you notice any changes, or new spots, consult a GP immediately.
Myth 7: If you tan but don’t burn, you don’t need sun protection – false. There is no such thing as a safe tan. If skin darkens, it is a sign of skin cells in trauma, even if there is no redness or peeling. Skin darkens as a way of trying to protect itself because the UV rays are damaging cells.
Myth 8: You can’t get burnt through a car window – false. You can still get burnt through untinted glass as it does not completely block out radiation. If you spend long periods of time in the car, remember to wear sunscreen.
Cancer Council recommends Queenslanders use all five methods of sun protection when heading outdoors – Slip on protective clothing, Slop on SPF30 or above broad-spectrum, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunnies. For more information about sun protection myths, and how to stay sun smart this summer, download Cancer Council’s sun protection brochure at cancerqld.org.au/cancer-information.