Sun Awareness: There’s an App for That

April 30, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Sun Awareness Week urges sunbathers to take UV protection more seriously.
Sun Awareness Week urges sunbathers to take UV protection more seriously. (David Heckerd/AFP/Getty Images)

A UK health organisation is launching a free mobile phone application this week to help curb overexposure to the sun and reduce the risks of skin cancer.

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) is concerned with the nation’s relaxed attitudes towards sun exposure and Sun Awareness Week this week marks its annual campaign to raise knowledge of skin cancer with the launch of The World UV App.

The app gives personalised sun protection advice, a daily ultraviolet radiation forecast, including peak strength from the sun, for more than10,000 locations worldwide. 

Kimberley Carter of the BAD said in a statement, “It educates people about the different skin types and helps them identify how well their own skin copes in the sun, so that they can protect themselves appropriately.”

Different UV levels affect different skin types in different ways, therefore “it can be hard to know what the risk of getting sunburnt will be,” Carter said.

Out of 1,000 people surveyed on a skin cancer awareness tour last summer almost three-quarters believed that people look healthier with a suntan, even those who had experienced sunburn themselves more than 30 times. Over 90 per cent of people admitted they had been sunburnt, with more than half of them several times. 

“Not everyone’s skin offers the same level of protection in the sun,” said the BAD president Dr Stephen Jones in a statement, explaining that knowing your own skin type is vital to understanding the risks of sun exposure. “For example, people with pale skin who burn easily or those with a close family history of skin cancer are at greater risk of sun damage and need to take extra steps to protect themselves.” 

BAD is warning that melanoma is the second most common cancer type in 15 to 34 year olds with malignant melanoma now the fastest rising common cancer in the UK. 

Dr Jones said, “Not only should we be increasing the emphasis on prevention to bring incidence levels down, we should be pushing early detection messages too – so that people know what to look out for if the prevention message comes too late.” 

Almost a quarter of British women holidaying abroad in hot countries are ignoring sunscreen protection despite most having been sunburnt. 

Also to mark Sun Awareness Week – April 30th – May 6th 2012 Macmillan Cancer Support released results from a poll, revealing that 22 per cent of women don’t use suntan lotion, with a quarter of those saying they don’t burn, and the rest because lotion is too expensive or doesn’t work. This is in spite of the fact that 79 per cent of women surveyed have experienced severe sunburn in the past.

With many people about to go on their annual escape to the sun, Macmillan Cancer Support is urging the public to increase its awareness of the importance of sun protection. 

Carol Goodman, a Macmillan Information Nurse specialist is concerned with the number of women choosing to forego sunscreen. “(They) are putting themselves at risk of skin cancer by not wearing any suntan lotion abroad. Over two and a half thousand people die of skin cancer every year and so it is a real issue,” she said in a statement.

The online survey of 1,500 women aged over 18 also showed that there is little awareness of the dangers of sunburnt skin, with 45 per cent thinking that after sun lotion could reduce damage caused by over-exposure to the sun.

Goodman advises people to take sensible precautions in the sun: half an hour before going into the sun, adults should apply two thick layers of suntan lotion with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 – higher for fairer skinned people (30-50+) – to protect against harmful ultraviolet rays UVA and UVB; for children, a high factor SPF of around 30-50 plus is recommended; babies should be kept in the shade. She also advises wearing sunglasses and a sunhat and to avoid sunbathing between 11am and 3pm, especially in hot countries.

“Remember there is no such thing as a healthy tan however good it makes us look or feel,” said Goodman.