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Scientists find sun lovers have little protection because they don’t use enough sunscreen

Toni Hetherington, August 1, 2018 7:33AM Kids News

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Using lots of sunscreen is important on skin of all ages. Picture: istock media_cameraUsing lots of sunscreen is important on skin of all ages. Picture: istock


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Australians working or having fun in the sun are risking skin cancer by failing to put on enough sunscreen, scientists have warned.

A new study by King’s College London has found that people are getting less than half the sun protection they think from their sunscreen because they are spreading it too thinly.

They want us to use the ‘teaspoon method’ to ensure proper protection — at least one teaspoon for each arm and leg, front and back of the torso, and face, including neck and ears. This is equivalent* to a full body application of at least 35ml or seven teaspoons.

media_cameraMost people use less than half as much sunscreen as they should.

Manufacturers calculate Sun Protection Factor levels based on 2mg of cream per square centimetre of skin, but most people use just 0.8mg for the same area — 40 per cent of what they should be using.

Report author, Antony Young, Professor of Experimental Photobiology, at King’s, said: “Most people who use an SPF 20 sunscreen will actually be getting something like SPF 4 because they aren’t applying enough. They overestimate* the protection they are getting and then stay out in the sun too long and get burned.

“But it is difficult to estimate how much to use and for the whole body you actually need a lot of suncream, far more than people realise.”

In the study, 16 volunteers were split into two groups of eight. The first group was exposed to ultra violet radiation to simulate sunlight over one day, while wearing sunscreen of varying thickness.

The second group received exposure over five days to mimic holiday conditions in a hot climate.

Skin biopsies* showed that proper sun cream use reduced damage 7.5 times compared to using no protection, even when the UV rays were weak. Researchers also found sunburn was reduced by 40 per cent when cream was applied correctly.

And those exposed to five days of high ultraviolet rays who wore the correct amount of sunscreen showed significantly less damage than people who had just one day’s low UVR dose exposure without sunscreen.

Weather media_cameraNixon (5), Tayla (8) and Kirsty Stewart putting on sunscreen at the Wellington Point Recreation Reserve in Brisbane. Picture: AAP

“There is no dispute that sunscreen provides important protection against the cancer causing impact of the sun’s ultraviolet rays,” Prof Young said.

“However, what this research shows is that the way sunscreen is applied plays an important role in determining how effective it is.”

An even coverage of sunscreen at a greater thickness, applied to clean, dry skin 20 minutes before you go outside will offer the best protection.

Then reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, exercising, or towel drying.

The sun’s UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and can cause damage when the UV Index is three or above. In summer, most weather forecasts will tell you the UV Index number.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. In 2013, more than 2200 Australians died from this almost entirely preventable disease.

The research was published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereology.

media_cameraUV rays can cause sunburn and eye damage.

(Source: Sun Smart)
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a type of energy produced by the sun and some artificial sources, such as solariums.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. UV damage also causes sunburn, tanning, premature ageing and eye damage. UV radiation isn’t like the sun’s light or heat, which we can see and feel. Your senses cannot detect UV radiation, so you won’t notice the damage until it has been done.


equivalent: equal in amount or value

overestimate: form too high a guess at

biopsies: examinations of tissue removed from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease.



1. What is the teaspoon method for applying sunscreen?

2. What does SPF mean?

3. Which college in London undertook this research?

4. What does UV stand for?

5. Name the number on the UV Index which indicates you are more likely to suffer skin damage from the sun.


1. Sunscreen Rhapsody

Work in groups of 3-4 to write a short rap about the importance of sunscreen and how to apply it correctly. Use all the key points in the article and put it into verses to rap with your group.

Perform your rap to your classmates and vote on the group you believe had the best message and performance.

2. Extension: We’ve heard the slogan ‘Slip, slop, slap’ in regards to applying sunscreen. Adapt this to create a new slogan to include the new research from the Kids News story in regards to how much sunscreen is needed and how often.

Time: Allow 40 minutes

Curriculum Links: English

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you ever been sunburnt? Was it because you forgot to apply sunscreen or not enough? Was it painful?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.

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