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WHO hails growing use of global standards against cancer-causing sun rays

WHO hails growing use of global standards against cancer-causing sun rays

Children wearing sun hats
With millions of new skin cancer cases diagnosed every year, the United Nations health agency today hailed the adoption by more and more Member States of the Global Solar Ultraviolet Index (UVI) which seeks to educate people about the dangers of overexposure to the sun’s radiation.

In recent days Canada and the United States, where well over a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, have begun using the UVI, an internationally-agreed and standardized measure of ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels expected for the next day which is usually given in conjunction with local news and weather reports.

“UV radiation contributes significantly to the burden of skin and eye diseases around the world,” said Dr. Mike Repacholi, Coordinator of Radiation and Environmental Health for the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO).

“The adoption of the UVI by countries such as Canada and the United States, where there is a strong ‘tanning culture’, is particularly welcome,” he added, stressing that UVI will certainly help raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and hopefully have an impact on reducing the number of skin cancers and cataracts in years to come.

In the UVI, as developed by WHO in collaboration with the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), UV radiation levels are expressed on a scale of 1 (low) to >11 (dangerously high).

Outside the tropics, the highest UV levels occur when the sun is at its maximum elevation, for example, around midday during the summer months. Altitude (the higher one is above sea level, the less UV is absorbed by the atmosphere), proximity to the equator and cloudless skies are also factors which increase levels.

Shade is one of the best defences. During midday hours when the sun’s UV rays are at their peak, finding shade is particularly important. If one has to be in the sun, wearing sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing, and frequently applying sunscreen of Sun Protection Factor 15+ are all important protective measures, WHO said.