Can you get sunburnt in the shade?

20/Nov/2020     Research

As summer looms just around the corner it is extremely important to raise awareness of the danger of sun exposure and importance of sun safe behaviour to prevent skin cancer, especially in Queensland.

Mater Researcher Professor Brian Gabrielli is a leading expert on melanoma and has warned more and more people are becoming complacent about sun safety.

"When we look at people's behaviour the data is puzzling, we are seeing parents with young children are very cautious when it comes to sun exposure as they are extremely vigilant with sunscreen, hats, sun safe clothing and avoiding the sun during high risk times of day," Brian said.

"However, we are not seeing the parents model this behaviour themselves which may explain why we are seeing adults and even teenagers who are more likely to engage in high risk behaviour when it comes to sun exposure, by not wearing hats, sun safe clothing, sunscreen and avoiding the sun during dangerous times of the day. 

"In Queensland our UV radiation exposure is extreme for the majority of the year and most people will get benefits from the sun such as Vitamin D through incidental exposure so there is no need to go out in the sun without protection. Hats are extremely important as most skin cancers are detected on people's face, neck and shoulders."

Brian warns avoiding sun exposure is the best way to protect against sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

"This means avoiding the sun during the hours of 10am and 3pm, wearing hats, sun protective clothing and seeking shade wherever possible. Sunscreen is also necessary but should be the last line of defence against the sun," Brian said.

"Putting a small amount of sunscreen on is not going to keep you safe, you should be using a tablespoon per limb, face and torso, applying 20 minutes before you go into the sun and reapplying every four hours.

"Even when you're in the shade it's important to be wary of reflective surfaces such as water and concrete which can still expose you to UV radiation and cause the skin to burn."

The final important step in your skin care regime should be annual skin checks with your GP or dermatologist.

"Ensure you are up to date with your skin cancer checks and always see your GP if you see something on your skin which causes concern," Brian said.

"Things to look out for are spots which change shape or colour, start bleeding or itching. Make a note to check your partners back and neck as well."

"There have been fantastic treatments for skin cancer which have advanced in the last ten years and if caught early it's very treatable however late stage melanoma is a very aggressive cancer so it's always best to err on the side of caution."

Brian urges us to be cautious of the sun at all times of the year especially in summer when more activities are likely to be held outside. As with all disease prevention is better than cure.

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