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Surprisingly for some – you do need to take care of the UV rays in Denmark from April until September

If you only associate the need to protect your skin from the dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun with being in a warm and sunny southern country, then you are wrong. In Denmark, skin cancer is the fastest growing type of cancer, and Danes are slowly learning to take care – even in their own garden.

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By Bente D. Knudsen

Most of us have learnt to apply ample sunscreen on our skin when we go to a warmer and more sunny country for our holidays; sometimes we remember to use it also when we go to the beach during July and August in Denmark.

However, many are not aware that even in the colder and less sunny spring months of April and May, the UV radiation on a cloudy Danish spring day may be dangerous to your health.

This is the reason why the Danish Cancer Association every year launches its campaign, Solkampagnen. The campaign is meant to increase awareness about the need to protect your skin from the dangers of too much sun exposure.

It is not so much the sun – which is often lacking anyway, instead it is important to be aware of the UV radiation intensity, which actually in Denmark can be higher than you might think even on a cold, windy and slightly cloudy spring day.

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The UV intensity is measured as the UV index, which again is a way of expressing the intensity of the sun’s UV rays.

A good idea is therefore to check the UV index when you plan to spend time outside to decide if you need protection, regardless of whether the sun is shining.

The index considered dangerous starts from an UV of 3 and above. And even if you think the sun is less intense here, on a sunny day or a day with only a few clouds, the UV index is typically between 3  and 6 from 12:00 until 15:00 from April to September.  [/infobox]

You skin type is also important. Skin colour is measured on a scale from 1 to 6, with Danes being typically a skin colour 2 – the second lightest called light/pale. Danes easily get a sunburn when exposed to high doses of UV light – starting from a factor 3 on the UV scale.

Skin colour type 1 and 2 are typically Scandinavian or Keltic skin types
Skin colour type 3 are often East Asian skin types (Korea, Japan).
Skin colour type 4 are often skin types from the Mediterranean and South America
Skin colour type 5 and 6 are skin types from Africa or the Caribbean islands

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UV intensity scale to take note of:

0 – 3: Low UV-intensity
The risk of sunburn is low. No need for sun protection unless your skin is very light.

3 – 6: Moderate UV-intensity
There is a moderate risk of sunburn. If possible, seek the shade between 12:00 and 15:00. Use a hat, wear protective clothes (long sleeves etc.) and lots of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 as well as UVA and UVB protection.

6 – 8: High UV-intensity
A high risk of sunburn. Seek the shade between 12:00 and 15:00. Use clothes, a hat and lots of waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 as well as UVA and UVB protection.

8 – 10: Very high UV-intensity
A very high risk of sunburn. If possible, stay inside between 12:00 and 15:00. If you need to be outdoors in the middle of the day, seek the shade and use protective clothes that cover your body, a hat and lots of waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 as well as UVA and UVB protection.

10+: Extreme UV intensity
An extremely high risk of sunburn. If possible, stay inside between 12:00 and 15:00. If you need to be outdoors in the middle of the day, seek the shade and use protective clothes that cover your body, a hat and lots of waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 as well as UVA and UVB protection.

The sun campaign promotes four steps to take regarding protecting your skin from the UV rays and the sun – in order of importance:
1:Shade
2:Sunhat
3:Sunscreen (sunscreens with broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays are recommended)
4:Do not go to a solarium (tanning beds/sun lamps)

Tips on where to check the UV index of the day

You can check the UV index at DMI (the Danish Meteorological Institute)- they show it every day for all the different parts of Denmark here. You can also download the UV-index app developed as part of the sun campaign. It is free to download. Find it here