• Home Health Topics Sun Safety
  • Why is sun safety important?

    Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.(1)

    The primary cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun.(2) The great news is that the majority of cases of skin cancer are preventable, through the routine and consistent use of the five sun protection methods.

    For more information go to: http://www.sunsafety.qld.gov.au/

    What is UVR?

    UVR is the part of the sunlight that causes sunburn and skin damage, leading to premature ageing and the development of skin cancer.
    Skin damage occurs very soon after exposure to UVR. Sunburn and a tan are visible signs that the skin cells have been damaged.(3, 4)
    The effects of UVR on skin are cumulative, so damage builds up over time, even without burning. (3, 4)

    UV Index

    The level of UVR exposure is measured through the UV Index and uses a scale of 1 to 11+ to rate the strength of the sun’s UV rays.

    For the daily predicted UV Index for your location go to: http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/

    UV Index

    The higher the UV Index level, the greater the strength of the sun’s UV rays and the faster the skin will be damaged. It is recommended that the five sun protection methods are used whenever the UV Index is three or above.

    UV Index and Protect Yourself

    In Queensland, the UV Index is three or above all year round, so you need to use the five recommended sun protection methods whenever you are outside.



    Facts about UVR

    • UVR cannot be seen, as it is not related to light.
    • UVR cannot be felt, as it is not related to temperature.
    • High levels of UVR are present all year in Queensland, including winter.
    • UVR is still present on a cloudy day – heavy cloud does decrease UVR but scattered cloud has little or no effect on UV levels.
    • UVR is reflected by light and shiny surfaces (eg. sand, snow, concrete and water), which means more UVR reaches your skin. (5)


    For Queensland:

    • 54% of Queensland adults were sunburnt in the previous year in 2014
    • 53% of Queensland adults practised three or more sun protection behaviours in summer in 2012, and 26% in winter (6)
    • 6% of Queensland adults practised all five sun protection behaviours in summer in 2012, and 2.5% in winter
    •  54% of Queensland children (5–17 years) were sunburnt in the previous year in 2013—5% were sunburnt with blistering. (7)
    Find statistics specific for your region refer to The Health of Queenslanders 2014 – Fifth report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland.
    Find statistics specific for your local government area at Local government area – preventive health surveys.

    How to create environments that support sun safety


    1. Cancer Council Queensland. Skin Cancer Factsheet. http://www.cancerqld.org.au/icms_docs/61890_Skin_cancer_fact_sheet.pdf (retrieved 30/7/2014).
    2. Veierod, M.B., Adami, H.O., Lund, E. Armstrong, B.K. and Weiderpass, E. (2010) Sun and solarium exposure and melanoma risk: effects of age, pigmentary characteristics, and nevi. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. Vol 19, pp. 111-120.
    3. Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. (2012) Solar UV radiation and the UV Index (Factsheet 9). http://www.arpansa.gov.au/pubs/factsheets/009is_UVIndex.pdf
    4. Nole, G. and Johnson, A.W. (2004) An analysis of cumulative lifetime solar ultraviolet radiation exposure and the benefits of daily sun protection. Dermatologic Therapy, 17: 57-62.
    5. Australian Bureau of Meteorology. What is the UV Index. Available from: http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/about_uv_index.shtml
    6. Queensland Health. Self reported health status 2012. Health indicators: chronic disease and behavioural risk factors, Queensland. Queensland Government: Brisbane; 2012.
    7. Department of Health. Child health status 2013: Queensland report. Queensland Government: Brisbane; 2014.