Being smart at sun exposure

Sun gives everything we have on this planet. However, overly high sun exposure and lack of sun exposure both can cause healthy issues.

Why should we be aware of sun exposure?

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer diagnosis in the world. The estimated diagnosis for Melanoma skin cancer in 2017 is 8392 cases for men and 5549 cases for women. Fortunately, this kind of cancer can be prevented for many people by being smart at sun expose.

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged. UV radiation from the sun is an important risk factor for skin cell damage. Sunburn causes 95% of the melanomas skin cancer.

UV index is more important than sun’s light or heat

UV index is a standard measurement of the level of sunborn at a particular place and time. By knowing the UV index distribution, we can prevent to participate in outdoor event at high UV index place or time period. UV level can be high on a cold day as well as the hot day.

There are many apps we can use to help us be aware of the UV index by time and by location. For example, SunSmart app can show the updated UV index and protection recommendations. 3 or higher UV index has moderate or high impact on increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Do we need high exposure to sun for enough vitamin D?

Vitamin D is very important for us to maintain health, have strong bones and muscles. UV radiation is not only the major cause of skin cancer but also the best source of vitamin D. It seems to be a dilemma situation to balance the sun exposure and level of vitamin D at the same time. However, short time (usually just a few minutes) exposure to UV index over level 3 or relatively long time (normal outdoor activities or exercises) exposure to UV index under level 3 can provide enough vitamin D for us.

Oily fish and eggs also contain small amount of vitamin D which can be supplemental source of vitamin D. Milk with added vitamin D and dietary supplement can be other sources, but not as good as controlled sun exposure. Especially during days with UV index under 3, exposure to sun usually means more physical activities which can also contribute to health.

How to be protect skins?

When we have to have outdoor activities at a high UV index day, covering the skin with sun-protecting cloth as munch as possible and using sunscreen for the exposed skin is the most based way of sun protection. Water resistant SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30+ (or higher) sunscreen is preferred. Wearing hat, sun glasses and seeking shade is also important.

Wearing a hat is important for outdoor activities

Common misunderstandings

Will fake darken skin protect our skin from sun? No, evening some fake darken skin have SPF rating, it still provide very little protection from UV.

Can sunscreen with SPF 50+ extend the amount of time we spend in the sun? Not likely, SPF 30+ sunscreen can fliter 96.7% while SPF 50+ ones can fliter 98%. So SPF 30+ sunscreen is enough for outdoor activities under two hours.The protection of SPF 50+ ones will not be longer than that.

Are we safe from skin cancer with only tan but not burned skins? No, there is no safe tan, darken is a sign of skin cell damage which may increase the risk of skin cancer.


4 Responses to “Being smart at sun exposure”

  1. daweiw1 says:

    I didn’t find the amount of sunscreen we need to wear on the SunSmart recommendations. But the recommendation is assuming we follow the instruction on the sunscreen.

  2. daweiw1 says:

    Yeah, from the information I get, it seems that SPF50+ is more likely to be a marketing strategy.

  3. Sarah Nielsen says:

    I find the marketing of SPF30+ and SPF50+ quite interesting, given such a little difference there is between them. With only a 1.3% difference in protection from UV, they are marketed so differently. Even the cancer council brand, for instance, markets them as “everyday” for 30+ and “ultra” for 50+ for the same quantity. It is made out like 50+ is so much better, but it appears this is not completely true.

  4. aali2 says:

    I have read before that you need to have a 1mm layer of sunscreen to achieve those levels of protection so it’s a bit worrying as to how much sun exposure you can get away with.