Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world and melanoma is often referred to as Australia’s national cancer. The at risk groups are young children because of UV exposure in early life; and outdoor workers because they spend long periods outside in the sun. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians aged 15–39 years old according to the Melanoma Institute Australia.
Clothing is front line protection against ultra violet (UV) radiation. Shade can only assist as a low protection method, particularly due to reflected and scattered radiation and has a protection factor less than 10, while sunscreens are also not as effective as clothing as they are rarely applied in sufficient quantity and are not reapplied often enough. In July 1996, Australia led the world by publishing our Australian New Zealand standard on clothing and UV protection (AS/NZ 4399:1996 Sun protective clothing – evaluation and classification) , providing information to consumers on the relative capability of fabrics and clothing to protect the skin against solar ultraviolet radiation.
This information was summarised by a labelling system, which uses the term ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) to rate the sun protectiveness of fabrics and clothing. Unlike the test method used to rate sunscreens which uses human volunteers, the testing of fabrics and clothing is done using machines. CFA representative Robyn Easton is on the Standards Australia Technical Committee TX-021 Sun protective clothing that will be revising and updating the current standard. The committee will be including sun protective textiles, sun protective garments including swim wear, school uniforms and outdoor workers uniforms; hats; leisure and recreational wear and other items that are worn next to the skin.