Stephanie Walker from Peregian Springs. Picture: Lachie Millard
Stephanie Walker from Peregian Springs. Picture: Lachie Millard

Shock new rules over sun exposure

RESEARCH that shows incidental sun exposure from hanging out the washing or standing at the bus stop can be a killer has sparked new national guidelines for sunscreen use.

The revised sun safe policy to be unveiled today by Queensland experts recommends Australians apply sunscreen every morning as a habit just as they brush their teeth.

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And Queenslanders in particular should adhere to daily protection year-round as they are constantly exposed to UV rays of three or above in the skin cancer capital of the world.

Delegates from the country's peak health bodies voted in support of the new guidelines at a national Sunscreen Summit at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane last year, after examining the latest evidence on sunscreen use and the dangers of repeated small doses of rays.

Sofia and Leticia Oliveira sport some zinc at South Bank. Picture: Tara Croser
Sofia and Leticia Oliveira sport some zinc at South Bank. Picture: Tara Croser

"Up until now, most public health organisations have recommended applying sunscreen ahead of planned outdoor activities but haven't specifically recommended applying it every day as part of a morning routine," Professor Rachel Neale said.

"In Australia, we get a lot of incidental sun exposure from everyday activities such as walking to the bus stop or train station, or hanging out washing.

"In recent years, it has become clear that the DNA damage that causes skin cancer and melanoma accumulates with repeated small doses of sunlight."

The new sun safe policy is outlined in an article by Prof Neale and Professor David Whiteman, out today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

After examining the scientific evidence, the delegates came to the consensus that Australians should apply sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level was forecast to be three or higher.

Two in three Queenslanders will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. Close to 3600 Queenslanders are diagnosed with melanoma each year.

"Skin damage and sunburn can occur in as little as 10 to 15 minutes during peak UV periods, typically from early in the morning until late in the afternoon during summer in Queensland," said Craig Sinclair from Cancer Council Australia.

Peregian Springs mum-of-two Stephanie Walker said she was vigilant about sun safety with her children.

"I am definitely concerned about skin cancer, sun safety is very important for our family," she said. "We always use sunscreen and wear hats, and stay in the shade when we can - we also always wear long sleeves when we go swimming and use a sun shelter.

"(We) are just very aware of skin cancer and preventing it - I think everyone should be aware of the dangers."

Research from Cancer Council's National Sun Protection Survey shows nearly one in two Australians mistakenly believe sunscreen can not be used safely on a daily basis.

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