Key public health messages on staying safe in the sun


  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK
  • It can occur anywhere on the skin not necessarily where sunburn has been
  • The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole
  • Most skin cancers can be cured if DETECTED EARLY.
  • Outdoor workers are at a higher risk of skin cancer

Sun safety myths:

  • SUN DAMAGE/BURN is not possible on a cloudy day - False: you can still get sun damage/burn as the UV rays can still be strong even on a cloudy day
  • Wearing sunscreen stops me from getting Vitamin D from the sun – False: Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and yes we get most of it from exposure to sunlight BUT we only need a little exposure to the sun and this we can still get while using sunscreens, be sensible and avoid sunburn
  • It’s a different sun in the UK so I only need to use sun screen if I go to another country - False: In the UK the suns UV rays are at their strongest between April and September and between 11am and 3pm but we also need to take care through out the day.  Remember the UK has more skin cancer related deaths than Australia
  • Sunbeds are safer than the sun – False Sunbeds are NOT a safe alternative to tanning, the intensity of some of the UV rays can be 10 – 15 times  higher than the midday sun. 

Stay safe in the sun

  • keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • if you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf.
  • avoid extreme physical exertion.
  • wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
  • wear a minimum factor 15 sunscreen, preferably factor 30 plus even on a cloudy day.
  • take extra care with babies and young children, apply appropriate sun screen, seek the shade and keep them hydrated.
  • keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight
  • You can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun however,  take care to cover up, or protect your skin with sunscreen, before your skin starts to turn red or burn.

Cool yourself down

  • keep hydrated, have plenty of cold drinks.  Water is a healthy and cheap choice for quenching your thirst.  Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
  • eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content.
  • take a cool shower, bath or body wash.
  • sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.

 Keep your environment cool

  • keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or who can’t look after themselves.
  • place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature.
  • keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
  • close curtains that receive morning or afternoon sun, however, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat – consider replacing or putting reflective material in-between them and the window space.
  • turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air.
  • if possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping electric fans may provide some relief.

Follow the ABCD rule

  ABCD Rule for melanoma checking


How does the sun and UV cause cancer (see link below) 

How does the sun and UV cause cancer? | Cancer Research UK


More Information

There are a number of apps available to show what UV levels are predicted for each day and further information can be found on the links below:

Last updated: 16 April 2024 12:49:19

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