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UV protection is needed in Denmark from April until September

You might 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. This is 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.

By Bente D. Knudsen

Most of us have learnt to apply ample sunscreen on our skin when we are on holiday, or when spending the day at 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, in April to help increase the awareness about when you need to protect your skin from the dangers of too much sun exposure.

The most important part to be aware of is not so much of the sun, but more the UV radiation intensity, which in Denmark can be high, even on a cold, windy and slightly cloudy spring day.

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

Therefore, you need to monitor the index when you are spending time outside and decide if you need protection, regardless of whether the sun is shining.

A general recommendation is to avoid the sun when the UV index is above 3. In Denmark, on a sunny day or a day with only a few clouds, the UV index is typically around 3 between 12:00 and 15:00 from April until September.  

In Denmark, the need to protect yourself starts with a factor 3 on the UV intensity scale, earlier if you have a light skin colour type 1. ( see the UV-scale below)

Skin colour is measure on a ( another) scale from 1 to 6, with Danes being typically a skin colour 2 – the second lightest called light/pale, meaning they easily get a sunburn when exposed to high doses of UV light.

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

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