When to apply sunscreen: a consensus statement for Australia and New Zealand

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2019 Apr;43(2):171-175. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12873. Epub 2019 Jan 25.


Introduction: Cancers of the skin are the most common cancers in humans, with Australia and New Zealand having the world's highest incidence. Primary prevention campaigns advise people to apply sunscreen to exposed body sites when outdoors. However, despite growing evidence that cumulative sub-erythemal exposures cause mutational damage, and trial data demonstrating benefit from daily sunscreen use, current policies do not consider the hazards of incidental (everyday) sun exposure. Thus, a Sunscreen Summit was convened to review the evidence and update the policies for people living in Australia and New Zealand.

Results: After reviewing the benefits and risks of sunscreen application, the policy group concluded that people living in Australia and New Zealand should be advised to apply sunscreen to the face/head/neck and all parts of the body not covered by clothing on all days when the ultraviolet index is forecast to reach three or greater, irrespective of their anticipated activities. For planned outdoors activities, sunscreen should be used alongside other sun protection measures.

Conclusions: People living in Australia and New Zealand are now advised to apply sunscreen every day when the UV index is predicted to reach 3 or above. Implications for public health: Increased use of sunscreen as part of the daily routine to reduce incidental sun exposure will lead to decreased incidence of skin cancer in the future.

Keywords: position statement; skin cancer; sunscreen.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Consensus
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage*


  • Sunscreening Agents