As Aussies we’re more informed and aware of keeping our skin healthy and protected than ever before, but there are still some uncertainties that can arise from time to time. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we hear from patients about sun exposure risks and the effects of time in the sun.

What does extensive sun exposure actually do?

Chronic sun exposure at any age can have a number of effects. The sun’s radiation is responsible for around 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanomas in Australia[i], and repeated sunburns do increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Intermittent or prolonged sun exposure also leads to a loss of elasticity in the skin over time, and is the most common cause of wrinkles as time goes on[ii].

Don’t I need some sun exposure to be healthy?

We do need Vitamin D for health and wellbeing, and its best natural source is via UVB radiation that comes from the sun[iii]. If the UV Index is below 3 it’s relatively safe to have a few minutes of incidental exposure outside, which in many seasons and areas of Australia will be in the early morning or late afternoon. If the UV Index is 3 or higher you will need to wear sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing.

If it’s cloudy and cool do I really need to worry about sun protection?

One of the biggest skin cancer myths is that you can’t get sunburnt if the day is overcast or cool[iv] when in fact, some UV radiation can penetrate through clouds and even bounce off reflective surfaces such as snow, sand and water. Your best indicator of sun exposure risks for the day is the UV Index, available via the Bureau of Meteorology website or the free SunSmart app.

Won’t a tan protect me from UV radiation?

A tan is a photo-protective response from your body and as such does provide extremely slight protection[vi]. Unfortunately, even a gradual or unintentional tan indicates UV damage to your skin[v] and this effect compounds over time, so any benefits would be more than outweighed. It’s wise to keep right away from tanning beds and sunbathing and look to clothing and sunscreen for protection.

What exactly is involved in a skin cancer check?

A professional skin cancer check is a completely pain-free process and does not take long at all. You can read more about what to expect and how to book here. Remember, it’s also important to keep an eye on your skin at home and take note of any changes such as itchy, weeping or red spots that aren’t healing up by themselves.

If you have other questions about your sun exposure, call to arrange your skin check consultation with SunDoctors today.

[i]SunSmart, Cancer Council Australia

[ii]Wrinkles, Better Health Channel

[iii]Vitamin D, Cancer Council Australia

[iv]10 myths about sun protection, Cancer Council SA