SunSmart issues warning as 1 in 3 adults don't understand cause of sunburn

Tuesday 14 November, 2017

New data from a Cancer Council Victoria survey shows more than a third of Victorians do not know the correct indicator of sunburn risk – putting themselves and their families at risk of sun damage and ultimately skin cancer.

The survey found 22% of Victorian adults aged 18-39 incorrectly selected temperature as the most useful measure to calculate sunburn risk for the day, while 8% thought cloud cover, wind conditions or humidity were sunburn indicators, and 9% didn’t know which measure to use.

Just 61% were able to correctly identify the sun protection times or UV level as the best measure to determine sunburn risk.

SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said it was important for people to think about UV – not heat – when it comes to making decisions about sun protection.

“UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer, but the problem is none of our senses can actually detect it. It’s not like sunlight that we can see, or the sun’s heat, which we can feel. As a result, we usually don’t realise how strong the rays are until the damage has already been done,” Ms Walker said.

“By incorrectly using temperature as a gauge, you are unwittingly leaving yourself exposed to increased skin cancer risk.”

A new app launched by SunSmart today will use augmented reality to help address misconceptions about the cause of sunburn and encourage users to protect their skin.

"Our new app – seeUV – uses augmented reality so that we can actually get a visual snapshot of our risk. It’s an exciting and innovative way to engage people in the SunSmart message and hopefully help increase people’s understanding of an otherwise invisible danger.”

Created with Deakin University’s Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory, and supported by the Victorian Government, the ‘seeUV’ app allows users anywhere in Australia to see the hidden intensity of dangerous UV rays around them using their smartphone or tablet.

The seeUV app also has a selfie mode, which uses augmented reality technology to generate the long-term consequences of UV damage on a person’s skin, such as premature ageing, wrinkling and sunspots.

Ms Walker said the image could be shared on social media to reinforce and extend the message that sun protection is a worthwhile investment.

“While a sunburn or tan fades, UV damage remains. With the seeUV app, we’re asking users to think about how that damage might present in five, 10 or 20 years down the track. Unfortunately the more UV damage you have, the greater your risk of skin cancer,” Ms Walker said.

The seeUV app is being launched today as part of the UV. It all adds up campaign, which airs on TV, radio and online from Sunday night, thanks to funding provided by the Victorian Government. The campaign warns Victorians that anywhere outdoors this summer, UV radiation will damage unprotected skin. Over time, this damage adds up, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

SunSmart Ambassador Catherine Andrews said she hoped the app and campaign would help remind Victorians about the dangers of UV radiation.

“When it comes to being SunSmart, we can’t slack off. The seeUV app is a brilliant reminder to us all. We need to protect our skin outdoors to stop UV damage adding up and to reduce our skin cancer risk,” Ms Andrews said.

Director of the Deakin Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory Professor Kon Mouzakis said his team was proud to deliver the technology behind the new app.

“At Deakin University, we are exploring how augmented reality and image processing techniques can be used to create high-impact educational experiences,” Professor Mouzakis said.

“It’s exciting for us to be part of projects like these that can have a practical and positive impact on the communities we serve.”

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. The latest statistics from the Victorian Cancer Registry show 2,712 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – in a single year. In the same year, 379 people lost their life to melanoma, while 137 people died of other skin cancers.

Ms Walker said it was crucial for Victorians to use sun protection every day, as UV radiation reaches Extreme levels in summer.

“Whether you’re relaxing in the backyard at home, playing cricket or at the beach, UV levels will be strong enough to damage unprotected skin,” Ms Walker said.

“For the best level of protection against UV damage, protect your skin in five ways: slip on covering clothing, slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.”

seeUV is available as a free download on the App Store and Google Play.


Survey results:  A total of 706 Victorian adults aged 18-39 years old were surveyed about their sun protection attitudes and behaviours in spring 2016.

Most useful measure to tell you the risk of sunburn for the day

  Correct Incorrect/don't know
  UV index Sun protection times Temperature Cloud cover Wind conditions Humidity Don't know
Victorian adults (%) 51 10 22 4 2 2 9

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer

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