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Sunburn Risk ‘Extreme’ Warns Cancer Society

MEDIA RELEASE
11 November 2001

Sunburn Risk ‘Extreme’ Warns Cancer Society

New Zealanders will be at great risk from the sun this summer and must take steps to protect themselves.

“The ozone hole over Antarctica is expected to break up in November or December this year. This will result in reduced ozone levels throughout the Southern Hemisphere – just at the time when people are most likely to be spending time outdoors”, says Cancer Society Health Promotion Programme Manager Liz Price.

“There will be more UV radiation around so the sunburn risk in some areas of New Zealand will be extreme. It is vital that people cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, loose clothing, and wrap-around sun glasses, and wear sunscreen.”

November 11-17 is SunSmart Awareness Week during which the Society hopes people will become more aware of the need for sun protection. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with nearly 50,000 new skin cancers each year. Melanoma, regarded as the most serious skin cancer, kills about 200 New Zealanders a year.

“Going outside without sun protection is a bit like playing Russian roulette,” says Liz Price. “Excessive sun exposure can damage skin and expose us to the risk of skin cancer, severe sunburn and eye disease.”

With the Antarctica ozone layer in a fragile state and the rate of skin cancer in New Zealand remaining high, the future for sun-loving Kiwis looks grim.

Dr Richard McKenzie from NIWA says that the ozone hole over Antarctica has been severe again this spring. At its peak in late September, the total mass of ozone depleted was 54 million tonnes, and the area exceeded 25 million square kilometres, which is slightly more than three times the land area of Australia.

“These figures are slightly lower than last year’s record values, but this year the hole is persisting much longer, increasing the risk of episodes of low ozone and therefore high UV over New Zealand this summer. People need to ensure they take care in the sun.”

Liz Price says, “While fair-skinned people are most at risk from skin cancer, we are hearing increasing reports of darker-skinned people being sunburnt. This may be because they believe they are fully protected, and stay out in the sun longer.

“In fact people with all skin types need to take care. The most important thing is to protect yourself from the sun during daylight saving months and to stay out of the sun as much as you can between 11am and 4pm.”

Because of international controls on the substances that cause ozone depletion, the current springtime ozone losses are close to their maximum, and in the years to come there should be a gradual improvement. However, the chemicals involved have very long lifetimes, so a full recovery is not possible before the second half of the century, and it may be further delayed through interactions with other climate change issues.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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