It's important to take a balanced approach to UV exposure to help with vitamin D levels while minimising your risk of skin cancer by using a combination of sun protection methods.
Skin cancer kills nearly 2,000 Australians each year – more than the national road toll – and two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and it's never too late for prevention, whether you're six, 16 or 60.
In Victoria from September to April, UV reaches damaging levels of 3 and above; increasing the risk of skin cancer. Check the sun protection times every day via the free SunSmart app and use a combination of the five SunSmart steps during these times:
Most people make enough vitamin D in summer because UV levels are high and more time is spent outdoors. During these months, most Victorians need just a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure for their vitamin D needs, and should be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.
In Victoria from May to August (when UV levels generally fall below 3), people are encouraged to be outdoors around midday each day, with some skin uncovered. Being physically active outdoors will also help the body to make vitamin D. At these times, sun protection is not recommended unless near highly reflective surfaces such as snow, or when the UV reaches 3 and above. People with naturally very dark skin may need more sun exposure.
More than 95 per cent of skin cancers can be successfully treated if found early. It's important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you so changes will be noticed quickly. Check all of your skin, not just sun-exposed areas. If you notice anything unusual, including any change in shape, colour or size of a spot, or a new spot, visit your doctor.
The SunSmart program is world-renowned, leading the way in promoting a balance between the benefits and harms of UV. The program is jointly funded by Cancer Council Victoria and VicHealth, and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for UV Radiation.
Visit the SunSmart website for more information.