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Early arrival of summer prompts SunSmart reminder

Early arrival of summer prompts SunSmart reminder

SunSmart media release, 17 December 2010

Clear skies, lots of sunshine and record-breaking November temperatures have prompted a warning that more Kiwis risk getting sunburnt even before the traditional Christmas holiday season begins.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) had already declared October “spectacularly sunny” before November saw temperatures soar across the country, breaking records in many places.

SunSmart’s Wayde Beckman says long, hot days mean more people out and about enjoying themselves in the lead up to Christmas.

“That’s great, but weather like that also brings an increased risk of exposure to damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

“It’s important to remember that it’s not the sun’s heat that burns, but UV radiation, which is at its highest between 11am and 4pm.

“So even when it’s not so hot we get lots of UV radiation exposure without realising it, especially at this time of the year and throughout summer.”

Wayde says for several weeks now, in many parts of the country, UV radiation levels have been well over the threshold where everyone needs to protect themselves against sunburn.

“Sunburn is a big concern because it increases the risk of melanoma skin cancer later in life. Around 300 New Zealanders die from melanoma skin cancer each year, even though it’s largely preventable by being SunSmart.”

He says the Cancer Society of New Zealand reports that its sunscreen sales have increased in recent weeks. “High demand indicates that Kiwis are taking more care to protect their skin from the sun outside the traditional summer holiday period.”

And he says new research from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research shows that daily sunscreen use can prevent melanoma in adults.

Just over 1,600 randomly selected Queensland residents participated in a trial which ran from 1992 to 1996. Half the participants applied sunscreen every day and the other half continued to apply sunscreen as they would normally. Fifteen years after the trial, the number of people who developed melanoma from the discretionary sunscreen group was double that of the group who had applied sunscreen daily.

“While this clearly shows that using sunscreen can significantly reduce the risk of developing a skin cancer, sunscreen on its own is not enough – you also need to cover up against the sun and seek shade.

“By following the slip, slop, slap and wrap rules, it’s easy to be safe while enjoying the warmer weather and longer days. Summer’s more fun when you’re SunSmart.”

For advice on choosing a sunscreen and sunglasses that will help to protect you from the sun, visit your local pharmacy.


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