Australians have been urged to take a more aggressive sun safety approach, with new scientific guidelines now advising people apply sunscreen every single day as part of their routine.
The new advice, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health on Friday, says applying sunscreen should become part of the morning routine, like brushing teeth.
The report advises that merely slapping on sunscreen when planning to spend time outside has become insufficient to guard against UV rays.
Repeated, small doses of sunlight received through activities like hanging out the washing is enough to damage skin cells and cause skin cancer.
The report says we should use sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level is forecast to be three or higher.
For much of Australia, that means people should apply sunscreen all year round, with the exception of Tasmania and Victoria where there are a few months over winter when sunscreen is not required.
Associate Professor Rachel Neale, one of the study’s lead authors, said Australians “get a lot of incidental sun exposure from everyday activities, such as walking to the bus stop or train station”.
She said it was essential people take heed of the new recommendations, which are a step beyond what most public health organisations have previously recommended.
Cancer Council prevention advisor Craig Sinclair says fewer Australians should develop skin cancer if they follow the new advice.
“Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world and research shows that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer, including the deadliest form, melanoma,” he said.
The advice is especially relevant in light of the heatwave conditions affecting many parts of the country.
“In relation to UV levels above three over the course of the day, for this time of year that’s anywhere in Australia,” Mr Sinclair said.
And he added that Australians must get over some myths about sunscreen.
“Worryingly, research from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey showed that nearly one in two Australians mistakenly believe that sunscreen can’t be used safely on a daily basis,” Mr Sinclair said.
“The advice is now simple: make sunscreen part of your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth.”
Anyone who spends extended periods of time outside must apply extra sources of protection, Dr Stephen Schumack from the Australasian College of Dermatologists told the ABC.
“People need to remember that sunscreen isn’t a suit of armour,” Dr Schumack said.
“If you’re planning outdoors activities, like playing or watching sport, going fishing, or working outdoors, you should also seek shade, wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses, and reapply your sunscreen every two hours.”
The latest advice on sunscreen, based on where you live:
- All year round: Brisbane, Perth and Darwin
- Every month except June: Sydney
- Every month except June and July: Canberra and Adelaide
- Every month except between May and July: Melbourne
- Every month except between May and August: Hobart