Be UV Aware this summer

Be UV Aware this summer

This June, just as the UV levels normally hit their highest in Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are highlighting the importance of being UV aware to stay safe in the sun.

The organisations are encouraging the public to become more familiar with the UV index and what it means, and stressing that care in the sun is vital even in cool, cloudy weather as well as on brighter, sunnier days.

Denise McCallion, Senior Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, said: Being active outdoors is good for our health. However, over-exposure to UV radiation can cause permanent damage to our skin and can increase the risk of skin cancer.

The UV Index shows how much solar radiation is reaching us from the sun and how careful we need to be. The UV levels vary with the seasons and time of day, but when the UV index is three or more we need to protect our skin and eyes, so it’s important to know what the UV index is going to be throughout the day.

Greater awareness of the UV index and the need for sun safety, even in our changeable climate, will help you protect your skin and allow you to enjoy spending time outdoors safely.

Ian Young, who works as an Assistant Health and Safety Manager (construction) for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in the Ballymena area, recently had surgery to remove skin cancer from his arm.

Most of my working life has been indoors, though as a teenager I worked on a farm and I didn’t use sun protection, he said.

Last June, Ian attended a sun safety awareness session at his workplace, which was provided by Cancer Focus NI.

I’d been aware of a lesion on my arm and the training prompted me to contact my GP who saw me the following week. An appointment was made with the skin clinic in Antrim Area Hospital a few weeks later and at this session they decided to remove the lesion, he said.

In October, I got confirmation the lesion was a basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

Now, I’m more aware, informed and motivated to take reasonable precautions to protect my skin from UV rays, he added.

Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Coordinator at Cancer Focus NI, said: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland, accounting for over 31% of all cancers. About 4,210 people develop the disease each year and around 387 of these are malignant melanomas, the most serious kind.

There are a number of simple steps you can take to help protect against harmful UV rays and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

  • Know the UV index and when the UV index is three or more, protect your skin and eyes;
  • Seek shade when the UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm;
  • Cover up in the sun with a long sleeved t-shirt and a broad brim hat;
  • Wear sunglasses that have CE or British Standard Marks which carry a UV 400 label and offer 100% UV protection. This will ensure they provide adequate protection from both UVA and UVB rays;
  • Sunglasses should fit your face well and relatively snugly so that light doesn’t enter your eye from around the lens;
  • Use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 for UVB protection and UVA 4-stars.

You can find out what the UV index is for your area on the Met Office website at

For more information and advice on how to protect your skin visit

To find out more about Workplace Health and Wellbeing download this guide

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