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Ultraviolet radiation is a carcinogen

Kiwis reminded ultraviolet radiation is a carcinogen

SunSmart media release 2 February 2010

As we head into the second half of summer, Kiwis are being reminded that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is a carcinogen, and not to underestimate the risks of sunburn. Sunburn in childhood and adolescence is strongly linked to melanoma in adulthood.

“UVR was classified as a carcinogen to humans by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) last year,” says SunSmart’s Wayde Beckman.

“While the comments related particularly to sunbeds, they reinforce current recommendations by the World Health Organization to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun.”

Around 300 Kiwis die from skin cancer every year. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and melanoma rates in New Zealand are worryingly high – four times that of Canada, the US and the UK.

Wayde Beckman says New Zealanders are at high risk of melanoma for several reasons.

“We have higher UVR levels than countries in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s because in the Southern Hemisphere summer, UV rays have a shorter distance to travel to earth than they do in the Northern Hemisphere summer.

“Atmospheric protection over New Zealand also starts to decline in early summer as the ozone hole breaks up and drifts our way, letting through UVR. And our unpolluted skies give the rays a clear passage through to Earth.”

These factors, combined with our love of the outdoors, mean Kiwis have to be extremely vigilant about sun protection.

“As summer rolls by, it can be easy to become complacent – particularly in those parts of New Zealand that may not have seen much sun!

“But before you rush out to soak up the sun’s rays, remember that you can have fun in summer, and still protect yourself from sunburn.

“UVR is at its strongest between 11am and 4pm. Try to avoid the sun during these times and remember to follow the slip, slop, slap and wrap rules.

“Make sure you and your family wear sun protective gear, like a shirt with collar and long sleeves. Slip into the shade, slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears, slop on some 30+ SPF sunscreen, and wrap on a pair of sunglasses.”


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