Skip to main content
Skip sub navigation

Sun safety


Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Each year, almost 2000 Australians die from this preventable disease.

Our outdoor lifestyle, warm climate and location in the Southern Hemisphere means that we are exposed to dangerous levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation every day. Your skin can burn in the sun in just 15 minutes, meaning that any time you spend outdoors in direct sunlight can pose a risk.

There are lots of myths about sun protection, such as the belief that you can’t develop skin cancer if you have olive or dark skin, or you won’t get burnt on a cool, cloudy day.

But these are the facts: it doesn’t matter your age, skin type or which month of the year it is (although the risk is worse in summer), UV radiation is real and can cause dangerous damage to your skin quickly and easily. The risk has nothing to do with whether it is hot or cold, you can develop skin cancer even as a young person.

So, it’s hugely important to be SunSmart, which means educating yourself about the risks of sun exposure, and taking simple steps to prevent damage to your skin. Don’t come home from a lovely day of swimming to discover you’re sunburnt!

What to do

Sun protection is recommended when the UV Index reaches 3 or above, especially in the middle of the day (between 11am – 3pm). The easiest way to check the UV Index is to download the SunSmart app. Remember, it might not look like a very sunny day, but the UV may still be very high.

When you need to protect yourself from the sun, you should:

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing, such as long sleeves and collars, to cover as much of your skin as possible. Wear swimmers made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun-protective when wet, and long-sleeved rash vests.
  • Slop on sunscreen. Use water-resistant SPF 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen (this will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays). Apply it at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours, especially if you are swimming.
  • Slap on a hat: a broad-brimmed, legionnaire or bucket-style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers.

You can also seek shade (use trees or built shade structures) when you’re spending time outdoors, and slide on some sunglasses to give yourself the best chance of protection.

Getting support

In addition to always protecting yourself from the sun, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your skin. You should routinely check your body and be on the lookout for any new or changing moles or freckles, particularly if they appear unusual or feel painful.

If you want to talk to someone about your skin, or if you want general advice on how to keep your skin healthy, you can book an appointment at a Deakin Medical Centre.

More help and advice

Take the Cancer Council quiz to find out how SunSmart you really are.

Learn how to check your skin for signs of skin cancer.

It’s not sun exposure, it’s UV radiation that causes cancer: learn about the difference and how to understand the UV index.

Last updated:
Page custodian: Student Services