Repeated warnings shared by tourists being "cooked" by the Australian sun in recent months underline the stark reality of how beach days in the country can turn into something more sinister.
One US ex-pat shared a video online on Thursday showing his red, sunburnt body while stating he doesn't "understand the Australian sun". "I put SPF 50 everywhere like four times today. I was outside for three hours. I got cooked," he stressed while Aussies quickly gave him tips on what to do next time.
Just days earlier, Moon, another US traveller, warned people not to "underestimate the Australian sun" after getting burnt to a "shrimp cocktail" himself. "Get an Australian brand sunscreen," he urged in his online audience.
These warnings come after 2024's joint Australian of the Year Professors Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer, the co-medical directors of the Melanoma Institute Australia called on advertisers and social media influencers to "stop glamorising tanning" in their acceptance speech. "Everyone knows someone with melanoma. It's as Aussie as our golden beaches and our sweeping plains," Scolyer said.
Australia experiences 'extreme' levels of UV during summer
Professor Anne Cust of the Melanoma Institute Australia and Chair of Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee previously told Yahoo News Australia that sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes on a fine January day in Australia.
"The UV index levels are much higher here so we have very intense exposure to UV radiation — particularly in the spring and summer, it doesn't take long to be to get burned."
According to the Cancer Council, the UV index at solar noon — when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky — is generally between 0-12. Anything above 11 is "considered extreme" and sun protection is recommended when the UV index is 3 or more.
In Australia, peak daily UV levels in summer are often higher than 12-14 and can even reach 16-17. Darwin and Brisbane have the two highest average daily maximum UV out of the capital cities, while Melbourne and Hobart have the lowest averages, though are still within a high range.
On Friday UV levels reached 12.8 in Sydney and 12.9 in Brisbane, both in the extreme range, while Perth was expected to climb over 13 with the temperature there forecast to be a scorching 39 degrees.
Aussies have highest rate of skin cancer in the world
Given the high UV levels, it is no surprise Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Cust explained this is because when your unprotected skin is exposed to this radiation, the structure and behaviour of the cells can change which can permanently damage the skin.
"There's been a lot of studies that have demonstrated convincingly that getting sunburned is related to increased risk of melanoma," she said.
Tips for staying safe in the sun
Australians need to be SunSmart and protect themselves from the sun by using all forms of sun protection, as sunscreen on its own just won't cut it.
Slip on protective clothing.
Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen.
Slap on a broad-brimmed hat.
Seek shade and slide on sunglasses.
Avoid the sun during the middle of the day.
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