New and improved SunSmart app is a reminder to think UV not heat

Friday 22 March, 2019

Seasons change, sun protection stays

SunSmart has released a new version of its popular mobile app, in time to dispel the myth that sun protection is limited to summer.

The SunSmart app provides sun protection times for locations across Australia, providing users with an easy way to find out when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels will be 3 or higher – the levels at which sun protection is recommended.

A recent pilot study found the app could greatly improve people’s UV knowledge. Prior to the study, 12% of participants knew sun protection was recommended at levels of 3 or above, but this increased to 43% after a month of participants using the SunSmart app.

Despite the cooler weather arriving in March, UV levels remain strong enough to damage the skin across most of the day.

Heather Walker, Head of Cancer Council Victoria’s SunSmart Program, said the app could help Australians keep UV on the agenda and help to clear up the misconception that it’s high temperatures that cause sunburn and skin damage.

“When it comes to skin cancer prevention and sun protection, it’s UV – not heat – you need to think of,” Ms Walker said.

“Unlike the sun’s heat and light, you can’t see or feel UV radiation, so it’s easy to be caught out by a sunburn on a day that’s grey and cloudy.

“The SunSmart app is an easy way to make sure you’re protected when you need to be. This is crucial for our skin cancer prevention mission, as we know the use of good sun protection reduces your risk of skin cancer.”

The SunSmart app was developed by Cancer Council Victoria with support from the leading authorities in UV monitoring – the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), which provides live UV data for 12 cities and the Bureau of Meteorology, which provides forecasts for sun protection times and the UV Index for all locations.

Dr Rick Tinker, Section Manager Assessment and Advice, Radiation Health Services at ARPANSA said the live UV radiation data provided by ARPANSA is Australian-specific.

“We have a network of UV detectors in cities around Australia – including capital cities and other Australian densely-populated locations,” Dr Tinker said.

“The data is collected continuously throughout the day by our detectors and updated every minute. The detectors respond to UV in a manner similar to human skin, enabling measurements as a UV Index.”

Acting Manager for Weather and Marine Forecasts at the Bureau of Meteorology Neal Moodie said that there was a strong and long-standing relationship between the Bureau of Meteorology, ARPANSA, and SunSmart.

"Our organisations work closely together to promote greater awareness of UV radiation. Tools such as the SunSmart app help people make informed decisions about sun protection, which is essential for our lives under the Australian sun, " Mr Moodie said.

In the new update, the SunSmart app now includes a four-day UV forecast, options to receive sun protection alerts on any day and time, and a news feature to help users stay up-to-date with information about skin cancer prevention.

The app also retains its popular sunscreen calculator feature, which allows users to input their clothing selection for the day and be provided with a recommendation for the minimum amount of sunscreen to be applied. This feature also includes a handy alert that users can set to be reminded to top up their sunscreen regularly throughout the day.

Ms Walker said the sunscreen calculator could help the 85% of Australians who aren’t applying enough sunscreen.

“The sunscreen calculator helps to reinforce the value of using all five sun protection measures, because the better your clothing choices, the less sunscreen you need,” she said.

“Sunscreen is an essential part of sun protection, but we want to make sure it’s used alongside clothing, a broad-brim hat, sunglasses and shade for the best level of protection against UV.”

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About the SunSmart app

Developed by Cancer Council Victoria, the SunSmart app is designed to help Australians understand when they do – and don’t – need sun protection in our high UV environment.

The app is made possible thanks to data and support from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The SunSmart app has been downloaded by more than 380,000 users and is free on the App Store and Google Play for smartphones and tablets.

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