Australian innovation goes global to fight skin cancer at the touch of a button

Wednesday 22 June, 2022

A collection of Australian organisations has come together with the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to develop a world-leading sun protection intervention, the SunSmart Global UV app.

Launching in Geneva today, this free phone application designed by Cancer Council Victoria, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau) has bold ambitions to reduce the number of people across the world developing skin cancer and experiencing UV-related eye damage.

Research in 2019 estimates around 6.7 million cases of skin cancers were diagnosed globally, and sadly more than 118 thousand people around the world lost their lives to skin cancer in the same year.

Evidence shows that personal habits in relation to sun exposure, including sunscreen use, clothing choice and time spent outdoors, are the most important individual risk factors for UV radiation damage.

To encourage world-wide adoption of sun protection, Cancer Council Victoria developed the SunSmart Global UV app in partnership with Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2) using a unique weather data algorithm to create UV forecasts for anywhere in the world.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said it was inspiring to work alongside our Australian partners to bring together this world-class innovation that will be utilised across continents.

“Cancer Council Victoria has a long history of being at the forefront of innovative programs that protect our community from cancer,” Mr Harper said.

“With summer kicking off in the northern hemisphere, it is fabulous we have the WHO, WMO, UNEP, and ILO supporting the launch of the SunSmart Global UV App to protect people against harmful UV.

“As Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, we fully appreciate the significant burden of skin cancer on people’s lives. Fortunately, through our world leading SunSmart program, we’ve learnt a lot about how to improve sun protection behaviours at a population level and so it’s exciting to share that knowledge globally,” Mr Harper said.

‘ARPANSA operates a network of UV radiation detectors in major Australian cities and in the Australian Antarctic territories. We are proud to share our findings for this important initiative’ said Dr Rick Tinker, Chief Radiation Health Scientist for ARPANSA.

‘We know in Australia how valuable it is to provide accurate UV levels to people based on their geographical location. The new SunSmart Global UV App means the knowledge we have gained in Australia can now be shared internationally to a much wider audience,’ said Dr Tinker.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Group Executive, Community Services, Piero Chessa said the Bureau had included UV levels in its forecasting for many years and it was great to see use expanding.

"With one of the highest levels of UV exposure anywhere in the world, information on UV radiation is an essential daily input for Australians to manage their lives under the sun. The BOM Weather app has included UV index as a feature for some time now and it is pleasing to see this now being used to influence sun protection behaviours globally."

The SunSmart Global UV app will provide the times of day based on your location when sun protection is recommended as well as when sun protection may not be necessary.

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