Frequently asked questions
What is UV?
The sun sends out different types of radiation: visible light that we see as sunlight, infrared radiation we feel as heat and UV radiation that we can't see or feel.
There are three types of UV radiation, categorised by wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC.
- UVA can cause sunburn, DNA (cell) damage in the skin and skin cancer.
- UVB causes skin damage and skin cancer.
- UVC is the most dangerous type of UV. Ozone in the atmosphere absorbs all UVC and it does not reach the earth’s surface.
UV levels are affected by a number of factors including geographic location, altitude, time of day, time of year and cloud cover. This means that UV levels are higher in some parts of Australia than others even on the same day.
What is the UV index?
The UV Index is a tool you can use to protect yourself from UV radiation. It tells you the times during the day that you need to cover up to prevent UV radiation from damaging your skin.
The UV Index divides UV radiation levels into:
- low (1-2)
- moderate (3-5)
- high (6-7)
- very high (8-10)
- extreme (11 and above).
The Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) measures the UV index in a location at each of Australia’s capital cities and makes this real-time data available on a daily basis.
What does it mean when the UV hits 3?
When the UV index hits three (moderate) the amount of UV radiation from the sun can damage your skin which over time can lead to skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancer, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is referred to as the deadliest form as it is more likely to spread from the skin to vital organs such as liver brain and lung. Melanoma also causes most skin cancer related deaths.
The majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation.
When UV radiation hits our exposed skin, it causes damage to the cells’ genetic material also known as DNA. This DNA damage can evolve into skin cancer and have deadly consequences. Our body naturally tries to repair the DNA damage; but sometimes the body's ability to repair the DNA damage fails and if this happens the process of cancer can start. If you notice your skin starts to change colour (what people often call a ‘tan’), that’s a clear sign that damage is being done.
How is skin cancer preventable?
Skin cancers are one of the most preventable types of cancer as we can cover up skin to stop UV radiation from damaging skin cells. UV radiation causes most skin cancer from causing damage.
Why does Australia have high levels of UV radiation?
Australia experiences some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world because our country is so close to the equator and has a relatively high number of days with clear blue skies. The Earth's orbit also brings countries in the southern hemisphere, including Australia, closer to the sun during our summer season than countries in the northern hemisphere are during their summer season.
How does melanoma spread to vital organs?
UV radiation hits skin cells and damages the DNA. DNA can repair itself, but in some cases the DNA cells can’t repair itself and can mutate into cancer including melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Those cells can continue to grow and multiply and spread into the body. For more information you can read our Melanoma Cancer Guide.
What does sun protection mean?
Sun protection refers to the easy steps people can take to cover up their skin to stop harmful UV radiation from damaging their skin cells. You can remember our iconic catchphrase slip, slop, slap, seek and slide which helps to remind you to wear a hat, clothing and sunglasses as well as apply sunscreen to any parts of skin you can’t cover with clothing. When you are outside, remember to enjoy shady areas outdoors to give you extra coverage.
How do you cover up?
Covering up involves protecting your skin from direct UV radiation. This can be done by:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants made from closely woven fabrics.
- Using broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 50+ or higher on all exposed skin.
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat that covers the face, neck, and ears.
- Using sunglasses that block out 99-100% of UV radiation.
- Seeking shade whenever possible, especially during peak UV hours.
How does things like walking the dog lead or gardening to cancer spreading to the brain?
Every time you head outdoors, including things like walking the dog, you can expose your skin to the suns ultraviolet radiation which can cause. These activities are highlighted in SunSmart’s new campaign to highlight the risk of not covering the skin and therefore repeatedly exposing the skin to UV radiation, -When the index hits 3 cover up from UV
What is meant by repeated exposure?
Repeated exposure relates to being outside day after day, with your skin exposed to UV radiation. So, the more times your skin is exposed to UV radiation the greater the risk of skin cancer.
Repeated exposure can be from activities like walking the dog, gardening, or playing sports outdoors without covering the skin.
Repeated exposure to the suns UV can cause skin cancer including the deadliest form, melanoma.