New Australia phone app aims to fight skin cancer

A customer looks at an iPhone 4 at the Apple Store 5th Avenue in New York, in this June 24, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/Files

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australians enjoying the summer sunshine can now know when it’s time to cover up and avoid potentially cancer-causing ultraviolet rays thanks to a new iPhone application.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with more than 1,850 people dying of it each year -- more than the number killed in road accidents, according to Cancer Council Australia. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.

“What we’re finding is that a lot of people are using temperatures and weather to predict when they need sun protection, but it’s really the ultraviolet (UV) that’s a problem -- and you can’t see that or feel it,” said Sue Heward, SunSmart Manger at Cancer Council.

To deal with this, as well as to reach young people who tend to be less stringent with sun protection, the council developed the free app that provides a daily weather forecast, including the maximum UV levels.

It has an alert function and uses global positioning systems (GPS) to automatically adjust to the user’s location, showing the times for which sun protection is needed as well as an automated UV warning and an up-to-the-minute guide to UV levels.

“The nice thing about the app is that it’s in your pocket, you don’t have to go to your computer or open up a paper to check,” Heward said, noting that this makes it especially handy for people who work outdoors for long periods and are especially at risk.

The SunSmart app is available to download for free.

The council has also devised a UV Alert web widget aimed at organizations such as sports clubs.

Reporting by Elaine Lies, Editing by Miral Fahmy