New tool against skin cancer
Two Kiwi scientists have developed a free smartphone application that predicts ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels throughout the day and can warn users how long they can spend in the sun before skin damage occurs.
The Cancer Society supported the development of the new uv2Day app to modify the software from Android to iPhones.
"Because New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma in the world, we really hope this new tool will help reduce the incidence of melanoma and other skin cancers," said Penelope Scott, health promotion manager for the Otago and Southland division of the Cancer Society.
"The most recent statistics were 2366 new registrations for melanoma in 2013 and the rate is not declining."
The application was developed by a Christchurch and Sydney-based computer programmer Jeremy Burke in consultation with Dr Richard McKenzie, a retired scientist, consultant and former leader of NIWA's research programme at Lauder in Central Otago, and other NIWA staff.
McKenzie said he was delighted the Cancer Society had supported the development of the new freephone tool. Essentially he says the app predicts UV levels at any time during the day and how long people can spend in the sun before skin damage occurs.
"It's a very important issue....and anything we can do to educate the public to reduce that risk (melanoma) the better," he said. "I think this application will be hugely beneficial in the long term."
McKenzie said the app was developed primarily to cover New Zealand but could also be used in Australia, the Pacific Islands and Antarctica. The developers are currently working on a global version, expected to be available soon.
The uv2Day app shows the current UV index level, its peak value and its progression throughout the day.
The UV index measures levels of UVR from the sun. In New Zealand UVR levels are 40 per cent higher in summer than similar latitudes in the northern hemisphere.
Forecasts of the UV index are provided for both clear skies and predicted cloud conditions. The app includes messages on the corresponding time it would take for more sensitive skin to show effects of UV damage (erythema).
Sun protection is recommended when the UV index is 3 or more.
The app was developed in response to a request by Jeremy Simcock, a plastic surgeon and senior lecturer at Otago Medical School, for a tool that melanoma patients, who require detailed information about UV levels, can use.
The free uv2Day app can be downloaded from Google Play for Android phones or the App Store for Apple devices.
NIWA's UV index is available on line at www.niwa.co.nz/UV-forecasts