Sun Awareness


Protect yourself from the sun and get to know your own skin so that you can identify changes that could be important

Fact #1

Sunburn, or even a suntan, is a sign that your skin has been damaged by UV rays

Fact #2

The sun’s UV rays can cause skin blemishes, premature ageing and skin cancer

Fact #3

You cannot feel or see UV rays from the sun. Your skin is exposed to UV even when you don’t feel hot or see bright sunshine

Fact #4

People with dark skin can still develop skin cancer, but they have a lower risk than people with fair skin

Fact #5

The more sun exposure you have had over your life, the more likely it is that you will have sun-damaged skin

Fact #6

Australia has a high incidence of skin cancer. Finding skin cancers early improves your chance of successful treatment

  • Daily UV index Daily UV index

    Daily UV index

    The daily UV index is reported every day in Australia. Look for the SunSmart UV Alert (produced by the Bureau of Meteorology) on the weather page of all major Australian daily newspapers, on the Bureau of Meteorology website, the SunSmart App, and some television and radio broadcasts. You need to protect your skin whenever the UV index is 3 or above (generally between 10 am and 3 pm on most days). UV radiation levels vary across Australia. They can be high even on cool and overcast days.

     Information about the UV index is available at

  • Types of skin cancer Types of skin cancer

    Types of skin cancer

    The most common types of skin cancer are:

    • basal cell carcinoma
    • squamous cell carcinoma
    • melanoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma Basal cell carcinoma

    Basal cell carcinoma

    Basal call carcinoma is the most common and least dangerous form of skin cancer. It usually occurs on areas of the body exposed to the sun. Basal cell carcinoma can look like an open sore, a red patch, a pink growth, a shiny bump, or a scar.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma Squamous cell carcinoma

    Squamous cell carcinoma

    Squamous call carcinoma is the second most common, and second most dangerous type of skin cancer. It usually occurs on areas of the body exposed to the sun. Squamous call carcinoma can look like a thickened, red, scaly spot. It may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate. It normally grows over weeks to months, but may spread to other parts of the body if not treated soon enough.

  • Melanoma Melanoma


    Melanoma is the least common, but most dangerous, type of skin cancer. It can occur on any part of the body – not just places that are exposed to the sun. Melanoma can look like a new spot, or a spot, or freckle, or mole that changes colour, size or shape. It usually grows over weeks to months.

  • Risk factors for skin cancer Risk factors for skin cancer

    Risk factors for skin cancer

    • Blonde or reddish hair
    • Light-coloured eyes (blue, green or grey)
    • A lot of moles on body (e.g. more than 50)
    • Skin that burns before it tans
    • Sunburn with blisters twice or more before age 18
    • Spending a lot of time outdoors, including in the past
    • Sunbathing often
    • Using a solarium (sun bed) any time in the past
    • Childhood in a sunny climate
    • Parent, sibling or child with a diagnosis with skin cancer
  • Skin cancer treatment Skin cancer treatment

    Skin cancer treatment

    Treatment often involves removal of the cancer by surgery, freezing (cryosurgery), scraping, or laser surgery. Sometimes radiotherapy is used to destroy the cancer cells if surgery is not possible. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be needed if the cancer has spread to other places in the body. Creams containing a medicine that kills cancer cells can be used to treat some skin cancers. Skin cancer treatment has a high success rate if started early. The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better chance of success.

  • How to protect yourself from skin cancer How to protect yourself from skin cancer

    How to protect yourself from skin cancer

    When you are outdoors in the daytime:

    • wear clothing that covers your skin and blocks UV rays
    • use sunscreen that is labelled broad spectrum, water-resistant and sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or above
    • wear a hat that shades your face, neck and ears
    • stay in the shade when possible, especially between 10 am and 3 pm
    • wear sunglasses that meet Australian Standards all year round. Don’t use solariums (sunbeds).

    These are banned in some states of Australia because they increase the risk of melanoma. Check your skin for changes (e.g. spots and lumps). See your doctor if you see any changes in your skin.

  • Sunscreen facts Sunscreen facts

    Sunscreen facts

    • Sunscreens only allow you to stay in the sun longer – they don’t protect you completely.
    • The sun protection factor SPF of a sunscreen is a measure of how well it protects the skin from sunburn.
    • A sunscreen can only deliver the level of protection claimed on the label if you apply enough the first time, and then reapply it regularly (follow the instructions).
    • Sunscreen should be applied 20 mins before you go outdoors.
    • No sunscreen can block all UV rays. Shade and protective clothing are the best ways to protect yourself from the sun.
    • Sunscreens are available as lotions, cream, sprays, waterproof formulations, formulations for sensitive skin, formulations for children and lip balm.
    • Spray tans and fake tan do not protect your skin against the sun.
  • Common mistakes to avoid when using sunscreen Common mistakes to avoid when using sunscreen

    Common mistakes to avoid when using sunscreen

    • Not putting on enough sunscreen – For an adult, you need at least 5 ml (a teaspoonful) for each arm and leg, your back and your front. You need at least half a teaspoon for your face, for your neck and for your ears.
    • Forgetting the ears
    • Forgetting the tops of the feet, including toes
    • Forgetting the insides of the arms and thighs
    • Forgetting the lips (use lip balm)
    • Not reapplying after 2 hours
    • Not reapplying after swimming or sweating
  • Medicines and sensitivity to the sun Medicines and sensitivity to the sun

    Medicines and sensitivity to the sun

    Some medicines can make you more sensitive to the sun and more likely to get sunburned. These include:

    • some antibiotics (e.g. tetracyclines or sulfonamides)
    • antihistamines
    • anti-inflammatory medicines (including ibuprofen)
    • anti-malaria medicines
    • blood pressure medicines
    • diabetes medicines
    • epilepsy medicines
    • acne medicines
    • psychiatric medicines

    Ask your pharmacist or doctor to check. People taking these need to be more careful to protect their skin against the sun.

  • Checking your skin Checking your skin

    Checking your skin

    Have your skin checked once a year by a doctor. Check your own skin every 3 months for new or changing moles and skin spots. Take a photo next to a ruler every 3 months so you can see if spots are getting bigger. Look for:

    • moles with an irregular shape (e.g. with a different shape on one side or with ragged uneven borders)
    • moles that are not one even colour but with two or more colours
    • moles bigger than 5 mm across
    • any spot or lump that is changing in size, colour, shape, thickness
    • spots that don’t have a smooth surface (e.g. scaly, oozing, bleeding, crusting, new bumps)
    • new spots or lumps
    • spots or lumps that are itchy or sore
    • spots or lumps that are bleeding, dry or scaly
    • spots or lumps that don’t seem to heal. Show skin changes to your doctor as soon as possible if you seen any of these.
  • Vitamin D Vitamin D

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is essential for a healthy body, including to keep bones and muscles strong.

    The best source of vitamin D is UVB radiation from the sun. Getting some sunshine on your skin allows your skin to manufacture vitamin D for the rest of your body.

    The amount of sunshine you need to make enough vitamin D depends on where you live, the time of year and your skin type.

    Estimated sun exposure times are available from Osteoporosis Australia.

    There are also small amounts of vitamin D in some foods (e.g. salmon, tuna, mackerel). Vitamin D supplements are available for people who cannot get enough vitamin D.

    Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you think you many not be getting enough vitamin D.

  • Additional resources