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PORSE works closely with the Cancer Society to ensure our children are kept safe from the sun. New Zealand has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world so we know how important it is to promote sun safety. Cancer Society of New Zealand CEO, Claire Austin provides some sunsmart tips.

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How careful do we need to be with babies?

It's very important to keep babies out of direct sunlight. The Cancer Society recommends babies under 12 months are kept away from direct sunlight. Some parents think you need to expose babies bottoms to the sun when they have nappy rash, but they really just need fresh air, not sunlight. There is a much higher risk of sun damage when children are young, so it’s critical we are vigilant in using shade, applying suncream and covering them up.

What about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is important for bone, muscle and brain health. During daylight saving months, New Zealand’s high UVR levels mean that even when babies are outdoors for short periods (before 10am and after 4pm), they are likely to receive enough ultraviolet radiation exposure to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. In winter, it is generally safe and advisable for infants to spend some time in the sun.

What are the common pitfalls to watch out for when children are in the sun?

  • Thinking you don’t need to worry when it’s cloudy. UV comes through the clouds. From September to April everyone needs to be sunsmart especially between 10am and 4pm.
  • Forgetting to re-apply suncream every two hours or after swimming.
  • Just relying on suncream. It needs to be a combination of things: seek out shade, put on wide brim hats to protect face, ears and neck and cover up with clothing.
  • Suncream SPF 30+ and above should be used.

How quickly can children get sunburnt in the New Zealand sun?

It takes just a few minutes for children to get sunburnt. UV radiation can penetrate light cloud and parents often get caught out because they can’t feel the heat.

How long does suncream last?

If stored well in a cool dry place suncream can last for a few years. But people need to check the expiry dates and follow the manufacturers storage instructions.

What is the Cancer Society doing to promote sun safety in early childhood?Cancer Society logo

We are currently testing an Early Childhood Service Resource. This will provide educators and nannies with information and knowledge, so they have more of an understanding about UV and how it works. This will give them sunsmart confidence and will be able to be used as part of their Professional Development progamme.

Some facts

  • Skin cancers are the most common type of cancer in New Zealand.
  • Approximately 67,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are treated each year.
  • There were 486 notified deaths from skin cancers in 2012 (Ministry of Health, 2015).