Myths and Statistics About Our Sun


Here are some myths and statistics about our sun here in New Zealand.


1) I can’t get sunburnt on a cloudy day.

False: You can still get sunburnt on a cloudy day. This is because UV radiation can get through light cloud cover, so unprotected skin can still be damaged.

2) Temperature gives me a good idea of the the chances of getting sunburnt.

False: The heat from the sun is caused by infrared radiation, not ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation can still be high even on a cool day, when infrared radiation is low. Just think about how easy it is to get sunburnt on the skifields when it can be very cold.

3) I’m windburnt not sunburnt.

False: Your windburn is sunburn caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The wind may make you feel cooler but UV radiation can still be high even on a windy day. Just think about why you don’t get windburn if you’re out in the dark on a windy night.

4) Sunscreen blocks out all UV radiation.

False: No sunscreen filters out all UV radiation – that’s why you need to limit your time in the sun no matter what sunscreen you’re using and cover up.

5) Getting badly sunburnt before the age of 20 increases my risk of getting melanoma skin cancer later on.

True: If you have a history of one or more sunburns before you turn 20, research suggests you have a much higher chance of getting melanoma skin cancer as you age.

6) Wearing a t-shirt in the water is as sun protective as a rash shirt.

False: A wet t-shirt may offer only half the protection it does when it is dry. If you are going to be in the water, a rash shirt and sunscreen is a good form of protection. A full body wetsuit gives better protection.

7) If you don’t get burnt, you won’t get skin cancer?

False:  Our skin remembers and records all the UV exposure ever received; all the sunburns, tans, solarium visits or just simple day-to-day time spent outdoors when sun protection has not been used. It all adds up and increases the long-term risk of skin cancer.


  • Over 350 New Zealanders are dying from skin cancer every year.
  • Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer affecting New Zealanders. There are approximately 67,000 new non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) cases each year.
  • Of the 3 most common skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma), melanoma is the most serious.
  • NZ has one of the highest melanoma death rates in the world.
  • The most recent statistics are for 2012, showing:
    2,324 registered cases of melanoma
    354 deaths from melanoma
  • There are approximately 67,000 new non-melanoma skin cancers each year.
  • However, providing an exact figure is differcult as, unlike melanoma, they are not required to be notifed under the Cancer Registry Act 1993.
  • Skin cancer costs the New Zealand health system about $33 million a year, making skin cancer one of the most expensive cancers for the NZ health system.
  • It has been estimated that, for every death from skin cancer, an average of 17.4 potential years of life are lost.
  • The majority of skin cancers are preventable – it has been estimated that over 90% of melanomas in Australasia are caused by sunlight exposure.


  • Is the least common but the most serious form of skin cancer.
  • Being sunburnt under the age of 20 years increases the risk of developing melanoma.
  • Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand.
  • Each year approximately 270 people die from melanoma skin cancer.
  • The number of cases of melanoma has doubled in the past 30 years to about 2000 cases per year.
  • In 2005 melanoma was the most common cancer among males 25-44 years old and among females aged 15-24 years.
  • The risk of melanoma increases as you get older



SLIP – into a shirt and slip to some shade, especially between 11am and 4pm when the ultraviolet rays are most fierce.

SLOP – on some SPF30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply regularly.

SLAP – on a hat with a wide brim or a cap with flaps

WRAP – on a pair of sunglasses. Choose close fitting wraparound styles

Slipping into some shade is also an effective way of preventing sunburn. Solid blocks of shade from dense trees, cars or buildings are best. Umbrellas, tarpaulins and shade cloths are also good options, but some filter out only some UVR, so other SunSmart actions are also advisable.


Sources: SunSmart, SunSmart Schools


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