A consortium of UN agencies on Tuesday launched an innovative new app that can help beat skin cancer by providing information on overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, which scientific evidence shows is a major cause of skin cancer.
SunSmart Global UV App is based on the UV Index, which indicates the level of solar UV radiation at the earth’s surface.
According to the World Health Organisation, ultraviolet radiation covers the wavelength range of 100nm to 400nm, higher frequency and lower wavelength than visible light.
UV radiation comes naturally from the sun, but it can also be created by artificial sources used in industry, commerce and recreation.
The UV index uses a scale of one (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.
The new app can help anyone, anywhere, determine the safe amount of time to stay outdoors, soaking up the rays.
The app is the collective brainchild of the WHO, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“The SunSmart Global UV App provides five-day UV and weather forecasts at searchable locations,” Carla Drysdale, spokesperson for WHO, said.
While speaking on Tuesday at a briefing at the United Nations in Geneva, Ms Drysdale added that “it highlights time slots when sun protection is required.”
“It 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,” explained the WHO official.
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.
“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.
“This app combines meteorological, environmental and health expertise to help protect people from the sun both at work and in their leisure,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Tallas, said. “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.”
Also speaking for UNEP, 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,” stated the UNEP secretary. “The SunSmart app is a fantastic UV monitoring tool, and I would encourage everyone to use it.”