Sun safety myths and facts

Myth: Sunscreen provides enough sun protection

Fact: Sunscreen doesn’t provide enough sun protection for your skin.

It’s important to use broadspectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen because it filters ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and protects you from reflected UVR from surfaces like water, sand and concrete. Sunscreen wears off and needs to be reapplied every 2 hours.

However, sunscreen is not a suit of armour and should be used with the other ways of protecting yourself.

Myth: Skin cancer is a less serious form of cancer because it can easily be cut out

Fact: Skin cancer is very serious and treatment isn’t always as easy as removing a mole.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It can travel to other parts of your body, making it difficult to treat.

Know your skin, check it regularly and talk to your doctor about any concerns.

Myth: Skin cancer only affects fair-skinned people

Fact: Skin cancer affects people with all skin types. Did you know Bob Marley (a Jamaican singer) died from an untreated melanoma that spread to his brain?

Skin cancer is less common in people with darker skin, but it is often found at a more advanced stage.

Myth: Skin cancer only happens to older people

Fact: Skin cancer can affect you at any age.

Anyone can get skin cancer. High sun exposure in the first 10 years of life more than doubles your risk of developing melanoma.

The good news is that in recent years melanoma incidence rates have been decreasing among young people aged 15 to 29 years due to increased awareness and improved childhood sun protection practices.

Myth: Skin cancer is caused by sunburn

Fact: You don’t need to get sunburnt to develop skin cancer.  Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, from over exposure to UVR from the sun.

We’re exposed to UVR every time we go outdoors, and even short sun exposure adds up over time to skin damage.

Sunburn increases your risk even more because the damage to the skin cells can be more severe.

Myth: You only need sun protection on hot, sunny days

Fact: You need to use sun protection methods every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny, cloudy, or raining—UVR is always there during daylight. So in Queensland you need to protect yourself in 5 ways every day.

Myth: You only need sun protection between 10am and 2pm

Fact: In Queensland you need to use sun protection methods whenever you are outside, as the level of UVR can be high enough to damage your skin from as early as 8am. Protect yourself in 5 ways whenever the ultraviolet index is 3 or above.

Check the UV Index near you.

Myth: Tanning lotions and spray tans protect your skin from UVR

Fact: Fake tanning lotions and spray tans don’t protect your skin from UVR because they do not contain sun protection factor (SPF).

If you have a fake tan, you still need to protect yourself in 5 ways whenever you are outside.

Myth: You need sun exposure for vitamin D

Fact: It’s unsafe to seek extra sun to top-up vitamin D levels. Spending extra time in the sun will not increase vitamin D levels - but it will increase your risk of skin cancer. Most people get enough UV exposure to maintain vitamin D levels through their usual outdoor activities. Using sun protection including sunscreen does not stop your body generating vitamin D.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your vitamin D level.

Read more about sun exposure and vitamin D.