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Why is sun protection so important!

Australians are very lucky to live in a country where we enjoy sunshine for most of the year. Not only does sunshine carry health benefits, but it also provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

As the saying goes, ‘you can have too much of a good thing’, and unfortunately too much exposure to the sun’s rays can have serious long term health effects.

From a very young age, most of us are encouraged to ‘slip, slop, slap’ and while it’s important to know how to protect yourself from harmful UV rays, it’s also important to understand why so that you are better informed and more likely to take action to protect yourself and your family.

Here are some of the main health risks associated with too much sun:

Skin cancer

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. There are three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and usually occurs on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun.

Melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia, and the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39-year-olds. According to the Melanoma Institute Australia, it’s expected that there will be over 15,000 diagnoses of the melanoma of the skin in Australia this year alone — that’s nearly one every half hour. It’s also predicted that there will be 1,726 deaths from melanoma of the skin, or one Australian every five hours.

Exposure to UV radiation causes 95% of melanomas. Alarmingly, some research has found a connection between melanoma risk and excessive sun exposure before adolescence, with childhood skin exposure increases the risk of young adult melanoma by over three times. This may be because children have particularly sensitive skin, making them vulnerable to sun damage. It’s especially important to protect babies and children from the sun.

Signs of skin cancer include:

● Skin spots that change size, shape or colour

● Little sores on the skin that are crusty and don’t heal

● Pale red, little round bumps on the skin

● Thick, scaly, red, dry patches of skin that can look like ulcers and bleed


The Cancer Council has found that 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 5 teenagers are sunburnt on an average summer weekend. Between days spent at the pool, playing sports on the oval, getting together for a barbeque or even gardening, it’s very easy to get sunburnt on days with a high UV index, especially if you’re not vigilant about sun protection.

It’s important to remember that overcast days can still have a high UV index, which means you can still be sunburnt. In fact, sun protection is recommended for any day with a UV index of three or higher. For most Australian cities, there are only two to four months of the year with an average UV index under three, so year-round sun protection is important.

Sunburn isn’t just uncomfortable, it has been associated with melanoma. Signs and symptoms of sunburn are:

● Dark pink or red skin in exposed areas

● The affected area is warm or hot to touch

● Pain, itchiness and tenderness

● Swelling and blisters that will dry out in a few days, causing skin peeling

● Severe sunburn can also cause headache, fever and nausea.

Skin damage and premature aging

Sunscreen has long been considered an important part of any skincare routine, and this is because sun exposure is estimated to cause up to 80% of the visible signs of ageing. This includes changes to the skin like wrinkles, pigmentation, and thinning of the skin. UV radiation even causes irreparable damage on a cellular level and affects your skins ability to heal from wounds.

When you think about protecting your skin from the sun, it’s important to not only think about your face, but also the hands, neck and chest. These areas tend to show signs of ageing like thinning of the skin and pigmentation.

Eye damage

According to the Cancer Council, repeated exposure of the eyes to UV radiation can cause short-term eye complains and permanent eye damage. This ranges from sunburn of the cornea and acute photo keratopathy (which can result in permanent vision loss) through to squamous cell cancer on the surface of the eye, and skin cancer around the eyes.

When selecting sunglasses, there a few key things to look out for. Firstly, make sure that you choose a wraparound style that sits close to the face, to protect the delicate skin around your eyes and the eye itself. Keep an eye out for the Australian/New Zealand Standard which should be visible on the sunglasses, and choose a style that meets category 2, 3, or 4. Make sure to wear a broad-brimmed hat for further protection.

For more information about the risks of UV radiation and tips to protect you and your family, speak to your local Capital Chemist pharmacist or check out our Sun Care brochure.

You may also be interested in the following:

How to apply sunscreen properly
Kids at the beach and what to look out for
Sun Care

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Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.