What time of year can you get skin cancer?

Do you believe the myth that skin cancer is a “summer problem”? As winter approaches and temperatures begin to drop around Australia, don’t put away your sunscreen or hang up your sun hat just yet. You can still develop skin cancer at this time of year, even when the weather is cool or cloudy.

Can you still get skin cancer in winter?

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In Australia, UV levels can remain high enough to cause irreparable skin cell damage all year-round, even throughout winter, and especially in the northern parts of the country.

Every time you go outside – no matter the season – any uncovered areas of your body are exposed to UV rays, which can also filter through thick cloud coverage to reach your skin. You are unlikely to notice until the damage has already happened, since UV rays are invisible to the naked eye and can’t be seen or felt.

That is why it’s important to wear sun protection year-round to lower your chances of getting skin cancer.

Getting sunburnt just once every two years triples your chances of developing deadly skin cancers.

When do most people get skin cancer?

Most skin cancers develop in summer because that’s when most people spend more time outdoors and are less likely to cover their skin with clothing. However, skin cancer can develop at any time of year, regardless of the weather.

Some winter activities (such as skiing) put you at higher risk of developing skin cancer because the sun’s UV rays are more intense at higher altitudes and can reflect off snow and magnify.

In addition, people are less likely to remember to wear sun protection (like sunscreen and a hat) during winter because they might falsely believe they can’t get UV-induced skin damage in the cool weather.

Is skin cancer seasonal?

You are most at risk of developing skin cancer whenever the UV index reaches 3 or higher. This can be all year-round in some parts of Australia such as Queensland. During summer, UV levels can reach 11+, which is “extreme” on the UV index. In these conditions just a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure can damage your skin and cause skin cancer.

During winter, UV levels can still remain above 3, even on cold days. Learn more about the UV index and how to check it.

While skin cancer can occur anywhere, any time, it is also very preventable! Wearing sun protection year-round will help lower your chances of developing the disease, which is diagnosed in 2 in 3 Australians by the age of 70.

Learn more about how to be sun-safe (even in winter).