UV: the facts

The invisible killer

UV: the facts
UV: the facts

You might already protect your skin on hot, sunny days but it's not sun exposure, it’s UV radiation that does the damage and causes most cases of skin cancer in Australia. The higher the UV rating, the greater your risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Be SunSmart, save your skin. 


What is UV radiation and why you should care about it

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of three forms of energy produced by the sun:

  1. Visible light – which we can see as sunlight.
  2. Infrared radiation – which we feel as heat.
  3. UV radiation – which we cannot see or feel.

UV radiation is the most dangerous of the three because it causes sunburn, cell damage in the skin and skin cancer. UV is especially tricky because we can’t see it or feel it. In fact, it’s often referred to as the ‘invisible killer’, with almost 2,000 Australians dying from this almost entirely preventable disease every year.


92% of melanomas are diagnosed in people aged over 40. 



Skin cancer risk: it’s not about how hot it is

When it comes to UV, it really doesn’t matter how hot or cold it is on any given day. UV levels are affected by a number of other factors, including geographic location, altitude, time of day, time of year and cloud cover.

For that reason, it’s important to realise that UV can be just as high on a cold day as on a hot one, especially if the skies are clear. And, while UV radiation is higher in summer than in winter, it’s still present every day of the year.

Don’t rely on temperature, cloud coverage or season to determine when you need to protect yourself from the sun. Check the UV instead."


Men are almost twice as likely as women to die from melanoma. 


A man and a child looking at each other and smiling. Both are wearing long-sleeved shirts. The child is wearing a blue bucket hat and is lifting the straw broad-brimmed hat off the man.

Help your friends and family be SunSmart

Is there someone you care about who could be doing more to protect themselves from UV?



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 when you need to be SunSmart.

The UV Index divides UV radiation levels into:

  1. low (1-2)
  2. moderate (3-5)
  3. high (6-7)
  4. very high (8-10)
  5. extreme (11 and above)

When the UV index is at 3 or above, it can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. At those times, all five forms of sun protection need to be part of your daily routine.



TIP: Download our SunSmart App: For smartphone users, our free SunSmart app is a great way to check the UV Index before you head out. iPhone users can download it at the iTunes App Store and Android users at the Google Play store. 


UV radiation in Australia is strong enough to cause sunburn in as little as 11 minutes on a fine summer day. 



How do I protect myself from UV? 

It's never too late to use all five forms of sun protection because every time you protect yourself, you minimise the chance of developing skin cancer.

Top of mind should always be to seek shade, but you also need to ensure you slip on sun-protective clothing, slop on water resistant, broad-spectrum SPF30 or higher sunscreen, slap on a broad brimmed hat and slide on a pair of sunglasses.

Discover more practical tips on how to protect yourself from UV

Skin cancer myths and facts 

Is it true that if you don’t get burnt you won’t get skin cancer?