Cancer Council Australia

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Preventing skin cancer

Protect your skin

For best protection, we recommend a combination of sun protection measures:

  1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  2. Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  3. Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
  4. Seek shade.
  5. Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.

Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide - Sid the Seagull Video

SunSmart UV Index

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the invisible killer that you can't see or feel. UV radiation can be high even on cool and overcast days. This means you can't rely on clear skies or high temperatures to determine when you need to protect yourself from the sun.

The SunSmart UV Index is reported daily by the Bureau of Meteorology. The alert identifies times during the day when the UV level is 3 or above and sun protection is needed.

As well as appearing on the Bureau of Meteorology website, the alert is published in the weather section of daily newspapers, on Cancer Council Australia's home page and as an app for smartphones.

Download the SunSmart app for iOS or Android keep track of the UV levels throughout the day.

SunSmart UV app

Applying sunscreen

Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before exposure to UV in order to create the intended protective barrier. It should be applied liberally and evenly to clean and dry skin.

For an adult, the recommended application is 5ml (approximately one teaspoon) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35ml (approximately seven teaspoons) for a full body application.
Sunscreen should always be reapplied at least every two hours, irrespective of the water resistance of the sunscreen. Swimming, sport, sweating and towel drying can reduce the effectiveness of the product, so sunscreen should always be reapplied after these activities.

Cancer Council Sunscreen

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Sun protection and babies

It is important to ensure that infants are well protected from the sun. Childhood sun exposure contributes significantly to the lifetime risk of skin cancer, and babies’ skin is sensitive and can burn easily. Plan daily activities to ensure the infant is well protected from the sun and aim to minimise time (or take particular care) outside during the middle of the day during the summer period when UV levels are at their strongest.

Whenever UV Index levels reach three and above, Cancer Council Australia recommends using a combination of sun protection measures, including to:

  • Seek shade. Make use of any available full shade and provide shade for the infant’s pram, stroller or play area.
  • Slip on clothing that covers as much of the infant’s skin as possible.
  • Slap on a broad-brimmed, bucket or legionnaire style hat so the infant’s face, neck and ears are protected.
  • Slop on broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above to any small areas of skin that cannot be protected by clothing. Sunscreen should be applied 15-20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen is your last line of protection.
  • Slide on some sunglasses, if practical, to protect the eyes.

Check the infant’s clothing, hat and shade positioning regularly to ensure he/she continues to be well protected from UV.

If infants are kept out of the sun or well protected from UV radiation by clothing, hats and shade, then sunscreen need only be used occasionally on very small areas of an infant’s skin.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists does not recommend the widespread regular use of chemical sunscreens in very young babies (less than six months of age), as they absorb more of any chemical applied to the skin than adults. Sunscreens should be applied to areas of the skin not protected by clothing. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that sunscreens may be used on infants younger than six months on small areas of skin if adequate clothing and shade are not available.

There is no evidence that using sunscreen on babies is harmful, although some babies may develop minor skin irritation. True allergic contact dermatitis to the active chemicals in sunscreen is very rare, but may result from reactions to preservatives or perfumes in the product. Try sunscreen milks or creams for sensitive skin which are less likely to irritate the skin. It is best to test the sunscreen on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no reactions. As with all products, use of any sunscreen should cease if any unusual reaction occurs.

For further information please read or position statement on sun protection and infants (0-12 months) and tinted windows.

If you require further information about skin cancer prevention call Cancer Council 13 11 20 (a local call from anywhere in Australia).

For more information

How you can help

You can support Cancer Council by:

  • volunteering your time
  • participating in an event or
  • making a donation to help fund our cancer research, education and support services.

This page was last updated on: Thursday, July 6, 2017