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Skin cancer prevention

Protect your skin

For best protection against skin cancer, a combination of sun protection measures are recommended:

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every 2 hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade.
  • Slide on some sunglasses that meet Australian Standards.

Extra care should be taken between 10am and 3pm when UV levels reach their peak.

Sun protection times

When UV levels are 3 and above, the sun’s rays are strong enough to damage your skin.

Sun protection times show when UV levels are forecast to be 3 or higher. This makes it easier to know when you do and don’t need sun protection. These times are forecast each day by the Bureau of Meteorology or available on a free SunSmart app.

Applying sunscreen

Apply sunscreen liberally – at least a teaspoon for each limb, front and back of the body and half a teaspoon for the face, neck and ears. Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen resulting in only 50-80% of the protection stated on the product.

Sun protection and babies

Evidence suggests that childhood sun exposure contributes significantly to your lifetime risk of skin cancer. Cancer Council Australia recommends keeping babies out of the sun as much as possible for the first 12 months. Where this is not possible, parents and carers should minimise exposure by:

  • Plan the day’s activities outside the peak UV times of 10am-3pm.
  • Cover as much skin as possible with loose fitting clothes and wraps made from closely woven fabrics.
  • Use a hat that protects the baby’s face, neck and ears.
  • Make use of available shade or create shade for the pram, stroller or play area. The material should cast a dark shadow. They baby will still need to be protected from scattered and reflected UV radiation.
  • Keep an eye on the baby’s clothing, hat and shade to ensure they continue to be well-protected.
  • Apply a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen to small areas of the skin that cannot be protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, neck and hands, remembering to reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours or more often as it is wiped or washed off.

There is no evidence that using sunscreen on babies is harmful, although some babies may develop minor skin irritation. Try sunscreen milks or creams for sensitive skin which are less likely to irritate the skin. As with all products, use of any sunscreen should cease if any unusual reaction occurs.

Last reviewed: September 2016

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