Global warming is not a myth any more. Average temperatures are on the rise in the warmer seasons. Weather patterns have changed dramatically over the past 2 decades as well. UV radiation protection is an increasing concern among people who care about their long term health and well-being.
My hubby remembers getting drenched by storms every single day in Spring / Summer on his way home from school. I myself have been in Brisbane for over 40 years, and we used to get storms virtually every afternoon. Over the years, storms started decreasing in frequency until now we can go a week, ten days or even longer before getting one.
Most Australians know that UV causes cancer but 1 in 4 think if it’s cloudy, there is no need to worry about UV protection. They are so wrong! Queensland, in particular, has one of the highest rates of Melanoma in the world. Did you know that projected numbers of melanoma deaths for 2019 will reach over 1900? Every single one of these will be an Australian, maybe even someone you know.
Yet, it is not only Melanoma you need to worry about.
Daily exposure to UV radiation causes sunburn, loss of elasticity and premature aging of the skin. Lesser known problems are eye damage, eyelid cancers, liver spots, and Keratosis. Kids are immune to some but not all of these issues!
So what can we do to preserve our own or family members’ long-term health and well-being?
The Cancer Council’s SLIP / SLOP / SLAP / SEEK / SLIDE is still the best way for people to remember what to do. They recommend doing the entire 5 step program if UV levels are going to be over 3. Habitual use of the program is the best option without even referring to the UV levels.
- Slip on Protective Clothing
- Slop on a SPF 30+ Snscreen (broad-spectrum and water-resistant)
- Slap on a broad-brimmed Hat
- Seek shade, using an Umbrella, under a tree or indoors
- Slide on Sunnies
There is also an app called SunSmart you can download, plus the Weather Bureau’s BOM website where you can find UV ratings for the day.
1-2 requires no protection, while the extreme rating of >11 actually covered the ENTIRE continent of Australia on 14.12.2019
So, do these measures work, you ask? Yes they do, but the numbers of people dying each year from Melanoma continues to rise.
( photo – Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald)
What can you personally do about your family’s protection?
Follow the program as often and as far as you can, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.
UV rated clothes are expensive, but ordinary opaque clothing with long legs and sleeves will provide some protection.
Sunscreen is expensive and needs to be reapplied every 2-3 hours but it is not suitable for all occasions.
Use a Hat, yes, it must be broad-brimmed all the way around otherwise your neck and ears are still exposed to UV. And, Gentlemen, if you shave your head due to male-pattern baldness, you have a higher risk of scalp skin cancers as you get older. So, don’t forget the Hat or the sunscreen or the Umbrella!
Sunglasses should always be polarised lenses to protect your eyes and surrounding delicate skin.
Shade can be under a leafy tree which is also cooler, or you can use an Umbrella or go indoors. If you can only do your daily walk at a certain time, an Umbrella rated to 50+ is an excellent way of protecting yourself, as well as gaining benefits from regular exercise.
Did you know that an ordinary Umbrella will protect you from up to 77% UV rays, as long as it is opaque.
DO NOT BUY CLEAR PVC UMBRELLAS! They do nothing to protect you or your family members from UV radiation. And do not buy Umbrellas with the UV coating on the upper side of the dome- it also can be damaged by Sun’s rays. REMEMBER: IF IT PEELS, YOU ARE NOT PROTECTED!
But, an anti-UV umbrella rated to UV50 + is designed to protect you from up to 99% of all UV radiation, and this includes reflections from sand, water, city streets etc. If you need a new Umbrella, don’t go past these.
(JAMA: Dermatology : June 2013)
Emory University study