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Skin cancer prevention

Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and most Australians are at risk. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) leads to burning and tanning in the short-term and results in premature skin ageing and skin cancer in the long term.

UV & sun protection

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (either through the sun or solaria) causes damage to your skin which accumulates over your lifetime and can lead to skin cancer. Because damage adds up, it's important to protect your skin, whatever your age.

Australia has some of the highest UV levels in the world. Remember, UVR cannot be seen or felt and may be high even on cool or cloudy days. You can check the UV Index in your area here:  http://www.bom.gov.au/nsw/uv/index.shtml. Take particular care on days 3 and above.

Here are five easy steps you can take to protect your skin from the sun:

Seek Shade
Find a shady spot, particularly during the hours of 11am-3pm when the sun's UV rays are at their harshest.

If this isn't possible, make sure your skin is still well protected by using the following measures.


Wear Protective ClothingWear clothes which cover as much of your skin as possible e.g. a loose shirt with a collar rather than a singlet top. When swimming, wear a wetsuit or rash vest.

Some clothing is specifically designed for sun protection. Sun protective fabric with a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 50+ blocks more than 97.5% of UVA and UVB radiation and provides the highest level of protection.

Wear Broad Brimmed HatHats need to provide protection for your face, back of the neck, eyes and ears which are at higher risk of sun damage. A broad-brimmed hat will provide good shade while a baseball cap offers little protection.

Find a hat which offers good sun protection but is also practical, well ventilated and suits you.

Wear SunglassesUV radiation not only damages skin, it also damages eyes. Long term exposure can cause cataracts and skin cancers of various tissues of the eye, so it is important to protect your eyes with sunglasses.

There is an Australian Standard for sunglasses, those that meet this standard will provide good protection. Using sunglasses which wrap around the face and are close fitting will provide the maximum protection.

Apply SunscreenSunscreen strength is rated using the sun protection factor (SPF). SPF30+ suncscreens filter out 97 per cent of UV radiation.

This amount of UV radiation will only be filtered out if enough sunscreen is used and used properly. For an average sized adult a generous amount of sunscreen should be used -approximately 35ml, or seven teaspoons, are needed to cover the body.

Sunscreen should be applied over all areas of exposed skin 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every two hours (or sooner if you've been swimming or sweating).

Make sure your sunscreen is 'broad spectrum' and 'water-resistant'.

Remember the 5 steps whenever you go outdoors. Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in NSW and rates are expected to continue rising unless NSW gets serious about sun protection. 

Our campaigns

The Cancer Institute NSW is the lead NSW Government agency committed to the prevention of skin cancer.

Wes Bonny Testimonial

Wes Bonny TestimonialThe Wes Bonny Testimonial Campaign tells the true story of a 26 year young man who died of melanoma in March 2010. Wes' story demonstrates that melanoma does affect young people. It also acknowledges that people know how to protect themselves from the sun, they just need to be more vigilant about sun protection.

Dark Side of Tanning

the Dark Side of TanningThe Dark Side of Tanning Campaign demonstrates the dangers of tanning and the damage to the skin that can happen to skin even before it starts to show signs of burning.

Tattoo Campaign

TattooThe Cancer Institute NSW and the Cancer Council NSW implemented a melanoma awareness campaign in summer 2006/07. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection.

Melanoma Information Campaign

melanoma informationIn summer 2005/06, Bondi lifesavers delivered the message that melanoma kills and the importance of using sun protective measures that reduce one's risk of melanoma.

NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy 2012-15

NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy 2012-15

A coordinated comprehensive, community-wide approach to reducing over-exposure to the sun for the next four years in New South Wales.