Use the UV index to protect yourself from sun damage

What is UV radiation?

Exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the major cause of skin cancer.

Australia has some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world which means UV radiation can be high even on cool or cloudy and overcast days.

There are three types of UV radiation, categorised by wavelength: UVA, UVB and UVC.

  • UVA can cause sunburn, DNA (cell) damage in the skin and skin cancer.
  • UVB causes skin damage and skin cancer. Ozone stops most UVB from reaching the earth’s surface, about 15% is transmitted.

UV levels are affected by geographic location, altitude, time of day, time of year and cloud cover. This means that UV levels are higher in some parts of Australia than others.


What is the UV Index?

The UV Index tells you the times during the day that you need to protect your skin from UV damage.

The UV Index divides UV radiation levels into:

  • low (1-2)
  • moderate (3-5)
  • high (6-7)
  • very high (8-10)
  • extreme (11 and above).

The Bureau of Meteorology advises on sun protection times when the UV Index is forecast to reach 3 or above. This is when it can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. To protect your skin you should ensure you use sunscreen on these days.


How can I access the UV Index?

SunSmart mobile app

Be SunSmart on the go and download Cancer Council’s SunSmart free mobile app. You can check UV levels when out and about or set up notifications at specific times to inform you of the UV Index on a daily basis. iPhone users can download it at the iTunes App Store and Android users at the Google Play store.

Other ways to access

The UV Index is also reported in the weather page of all Australian daily newspapers, on the Bureau of Meteorology website, and on some radio and mobile weather forecasts.


When should I check the UV index?

  • when planning or taking part in an outdoor activity or event
  • if you are undertaking recreational activities such as running, swimming, cycling or team sports
  • when watching a spectator sport, such as tennis or cricket
  • if you are working outdoors, or have responsibility for outdoor workers, or
  • if you are responsible for young children and their outdoor activities.