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FAQs

COVID-19

I’ve heard vitamin D may help with COVID-19. Should I spend longer in the sun?

There is no conclusive evidence suggesting high vitamin D levels reduce the severity of COVID-19. The sun is the greatest source of vitamin D however the body can only absorb a limited amount at any one time. Deliberately extending your time in the sun when the UV is above 3 won’t necessarily boost your vitamin D levels, however it will increase your risk of skin cancer.

Can spending time in the sun help kill COVID-19?

There are three types of UV radiation from the sun – UVA, UVB and UVC. The majority of UV reaching the earth’s surface is UVA (95%) with UVB making up the other 5%. UVC is absorbed by the atmosphere and does not reach earth’s surface. UVC has some sterilization properties – but only when artificially generated at intensities dangerous to the human body.

UV exposure from the sun won’t help with COVID-19 but it will increase your risk of skin cancer. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to regularly wash your hands, clean your surfaces and follow physical distancing measures.

Are UVC lamps effective in killing COVID-19?

UVC has been used to provide effective biological sterilisation against bacteria and viruses in industrial, commercial, medical and research applications. In these settings, UVC can be used at intensities high enough to be effective for sterilisation purposes. However, exposure has to be very carefully controlled to avoid harm to people.

Lamps that emit UVC are not proven to effectively kill COVID-19 on the body, personal living spaces or handheld objects such as mobile phones and shopping bags. UVC lamps won’t help with COVID-19 but it will increase your risk of skin cancer. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to regularly wash your hands, clean your surfaces and follow physical distancing measures.

 

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation

What is ultraviolet (UV) radiation and why is it dangerous?

UV radiation is invisible, high-energy radiation from the sun. It isn’t like the sun’s light which we can see or heat which we can feel. By the time you can feel sunburn, your skin has already been damaged. UV is the main cause of sunburn, tanning, premature ageing and skin cancer.

It wasn’t hot, so why did I get sunburnt?

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation – not heat – is the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. It’s a myth that high temperatures are to blame. There can be high UV even on cool and cloudy days. And UV and temperature usually peak at different times of day. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the sun protection times based on the UV levels rather than relying on temperature.

Download the free SunSmart app for sun protection times for your location.

 

Sun protection

When should you use sun protection?

In Victoria sun protection is usually required from mid-August to the end of April when the UV reaches 3 and above.

When UV levels are below 3 (typically from May to August in Victoria), sun protection is not recommended unless you work outdoors, are near reflective surfaces (like snow), or outside for extended periods. Find out more about UV.

The free SunSmart app tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location and shows current UV levels. Sun protection times can also be found at the Bureau of Meteorology website and live UV levels are also available from ARPANSA.

What are the sun protection times?

Sun protection times are linked to the UV index and are advised when the UV is predicted to be 3 and above. The free SunSmart app tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location and shows current UV levels for major cities.

Sun protection times can also be found at the Bureau of Meteorology website and live UV levels are also available from ARPANSA.

Read more about the free SunSmart app.

I got sunburnt a lot as a child, is it too late to protect my skin now?

UV damage adds up over your lifetime to increase your risk of skin cancer. The good news is using sun protection will reduce your risk at any age, no matter if you are 6 months or 60 years old. Get tips on good sun protection.

Is it safe to get a gradual tan?

There is no safe way to tan. Tanning is a sign of skin cells in trauma and not a sign of health. A tan occurs when skin is overexposed to UV radiation causing the skin cells in the top layer of skin to produce a pigment called melanin in an attempt to protect the skin from more damage. Every time your skin tans, the damage adds up to increase your risk of skin cancer.

Why do outdoor workers need to cover up all year round?

Outdoor workers receive up to ten times more sun exposure than indoor workers and therefore need to be vigilant about sun protection. UV exposure adds up overtime which means outdoor workers should be protecting their skin even at very low levels of UV.

Visit outdoor workers for more information.

Does SunSmart have any shade grants?

For information on shade grants, please contact the Victorian Government.

SunSmart can provide information about natural and built shade and conducting a shade comparison check to help you choose the most appropriate shade for your setting.

 

Sunscreen

Is SPF50 sunscreen better than SPF30 sunscreen?

In lab conditions, SPF30 filters 96.7% of UVB and SPF50 filters 98%. Both can provide excellent protection if they are applied properly.

SunSmart recommends using sunscreen that is labelled SPF30 (or higher), broad-spectrum and water-resistant. Try different sunscreens to find the right one for you.

For the best sun protection, use clothing, hats, shade and sunglasses as well as sunscreen.

To learn more, read our Sunscreen information sheet.

What does the + on sunscreen packaging mean?

The plus sign simply means 'more than'. For example, a SPF50+ sunscreen must be at least SPF60 in testing in laboratories.

What does broad-spectrum sunscreen mean?

Broad-spectrum sunscreen refers to sunscreens which filter both UVA and UVB rays. UVB is the major cause of sunburn and increased skin cancer risk, while UVA contributes to ageing of the skin, as well as higher skin cancer risk. Look for an SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum sunscreen for best protection and remember to use clothing, hats, shade and sunglasses to protect your skin as well.

Can SunSmart provide sunscreen or sunscreen samples?

As SunSmart is a not-for-profit program, we unfortunately do not have the resources to provide free sunscreen.

The full range of Cancer Council sunscreen as well as other sun protection products are available for sale through the Cancer Council shop. If you wish to purchase sunscreen for your event please visit cancercouncilshop.org.au or call 1300 354 144. If you expect a large number of people at your event, pump packs of sunscreen at key locations (e.g. entry point, registration table, information stand) may be the most cost-effective option.

For more information and suggestions to make your event as sun safe as possible please visit the Events & festivals page.

 

Skin checks

What’s the best way to get a few moles checked?

Cancer Council Victoria recommends seeing your regular doctor who is more likely to be familiar with your skin and health history. They can assess, monitor and treat your skin spots where necessary. Your doctor can then refer you to a dermatologist for future assessment and treatment if required.

Can you recommend a skin cancer cinic?

Cancer Council Victoria does not support or endorse any particular skin check service provider or skin cancer clinic. If you are concerned about your skin, visit your GP. Read our guide to skin clinics for more information.

 

Vitamin D

I might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, should I spend longer in the sun?

People who may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency (naturally dark skinned, older people, obese people, babies/infants, those who regularly wear covering clothing and those at high risk of skin cancer) should talk to their doctor for advice to determine if dietary supplements are appropriate. Extending your time in the sun without any form of sun protection when the UV is 3 or above is not recommended, even for those with vitamin D deficiency.

Find out more about vitamin D.

How much sun is enough for vitamin D production?

Vitamin D levels change naturally with the seasons. In summer, most people make enough vitamin D because UV levels are high and we spend more time outdoors. A few minutes of sun exposure mid-morning or mid-afternoon is enough for most Victorians’ vitamin D levels.

From May to mid-August in Victoria, UV levels are lower and we tend to spend more time indoors, and cover our skin. Spending time outside around midday each day, with some skin uncovered will help with vitamin D at this time of year. People who may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency should talk to their doctor for advice.

Find out more about vitamin D.

 

Statistics

Where can I find the latest statistics on skin cancer in Victoria and Australia?

The Victorian Cancer Registry has the most up-to-date data and statistics relating to skin cancer.

Cancer Council Australia's Skin Cancer Statistics and Issues website provides the most recent information about skin cancer prevention in Australia, including statistics.

 

SunSmart brand

Can I use the SunSmart logo, ads or songs?

If you would like to use any SunSmart materials, including the Slip, Slop, Slap catch-cry, logo, videos or songs, please contact us with details of your request by completing this form.