Don't let the sun see your DNA this summer

Posted 3 Dec 2018.

Our latest SunSmart campaign is an urgent warning for West Australians to protect themselves from DNA damage this summer as new research reveals only 49 per cent of WA adults use adequate sun protection.

Less than half of WA adults responding to Cancer Council's latest National Sun Protection Survey said they use sun protection regularly when outside for ten minutes or more.

Our SunSmart Manager Mark Strickland said while many Australians are now aware of the link between excessive UV radiation and skin cancer, many are unaware of the cumulative effect of UV and therefore do not use sun protection during day-to-day activities.

"DNA damage caused by UV radiation is the starting point for skin cancer. Our immune system mostly repairs this damage by fixing the DNA or by killing the cell in question. But if this damage is not corrected, it can be copied to new cells as they divide and these damaged cells can become skin cancer," Mr Strickland said.

"The stronger the UV radiation, the faster the DNA damage occurs - in the middle of a summer day in WA that can happen in as little as ten minutes.

"The fact half of WA adults aren't being SunSmart is alarming when we consider 67 per cent of WA adults spend more than 15 minutes outside during peak UV periods, and on average they're spending around two hours outdoors during this period. That's a dangerously long time to be in the sun unprotected."

While sunburn rates are declining in WA, the survey revealed 15 per cent of WA adults still get sunburnt each summer.

"Fifty percent of sunburns in Australia occur during passive recreation such as watching sport, gardening or picnicking, or during chores around the house. Many mistakenly only use sun protection during periods of planned UV exposure often linked to particular settings like the beach or pool," Mr Strickland said.

"No matter where you are, or what you're doing, when exposed to UV levels of three or above, your skin is being damaged, even if you don't get burnt. This damage adds up over time and increases your risk of skin cancer.

Mr Strickland said the key to avoiding skin damage is to integrate SunSmart measures into your daily routine.

"Make it easy for yourself to ‘slip slop slap seek slide' when the UV is three or above - keep a broadbrim hat in the car or at work for when you duck out for lunch, apply sunscreen in the morning before you leave the house, and don't forget to wear long sleeves and sunnies, and seek shade when the UV is forecast to reach three."

Sun protection times are available for locations across Australia via Cancer Council's SunSmart app or at



Found in:  News - 2018 | View all news