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Safe in the sun? UN launches new app to help beat skin cancer

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Scientific evidence shows that overexposure to UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer. To help people protect themselves adequately, a consortium of UN agencies on Tuesday, launched an innovative new App that can help anyone, anywhere, determine the safe amount of time to stay outdoors, soaking up the rays.

The SunSmart Global UV App, is the collective brainchild of the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Five-day forecast

“The SunSmart Global UV App provides five-day UV and weather forecasts at searchable locations”, said Carla Drysdale, spokesperson for WHO.

While speaking today at a briefing at the United Nations in Geneva, Ms. Drysdale added that “it highlights time slots when sun protection is required and aims to help people around the world know when to use sun protection, in an effort to reduce the global burden of skin cancer and UV-related eye damage”.

Developed by Australia’s Cancer Council Victoria and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the app is based on the UV Index, which indicates the level of solar UV radiation at the earth’s surface.

The UV Index uses a scale of 1 (or Low) to 11 and higher (or Extreme). The higher the index value, the greater the potential for damage to the skin and eyes, and the less time it takes for harm to occur.

120,000 lives lost in 2020

“Globally, it’s estimated that over 1.5 million cases of skin cancer, that’s melanoma and non-melanoma combined, were diagnosed globally in 2020”, Ms. Drysdale said.

“During the same period, more than 120,000 people across the world lost their lives to this highly preventable disease”.

Much of UV-related illness and death can be avoided through a set of simple prevention measures such as limiting time in the midday sun, seeking shade when UV rays are most intense, and wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses – as well as the use of sunscreen.

Useful for work and play

“This app combines meteorological, environmental and health expertise to help protect people from the sun both at work and in their leisure” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Tallas. It is unique because it uses data from country-level weather and UV measuring stations to provide accurate and location-specific UV Index readings…It is a great example of science serving society.”

Vera Paquete-Perdigão, Director of the ILO’s Governance and Tripartism, Department, said the app was “a useful tool to assist companies and workers in identifying hazardous work, and planning safety and health measures.”

And speaking for UNEP on launch day, Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of UNEP’s Ozone Secretariat, noted that the highly effective Montreal Protocol, protects the stratospheric ozone layer which, in turn, protects human health and the environment by blocking out most of sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

“Skin cancer can result from overexposure to the sun, so it is imperative for everyone to remain vigilant and ensure they protect themselves adequately with hats and sunscreen. The SunSmart App is a fantastic UV monitoring tool, and I would encourage everyone to use it.”

Northern exposure

According to WMO’s spokesperson Clare Nullis “it’s now the period of the year when UV radiation is at its maximum in Europe, in the northern hemisphere”.

“This is because of the position of the sun in the sky”, she added. “There are other factors that influence the amount of UV, which is the ground, clouds, the ozone layers, etc. So, all of these elements are being added into this app”.

The SunSmart Global UV app is available free of charge at both the Apple App Store and Google Play store for Android.

It provides personalized options so that users can take actions to protect prolonged excessive UV exposure, a major cause of skin cancer and other UV relate diseases.


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