Sunscreen patch that could stop sunburn



Queensland University of Technology media release

A high-tech UV-sensitive patch that changes colour when it is time to reapply sunscreen could be the solution to protecting the 75 per cent of young Queenslanders who get sunburned every year.

Dr Elke Hacker, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said despite living in a sun smart state, sunburn rates continue to be high.

“Sunscreen when applied at the correct concentration (2mg/cm2) is effective at blocking the harmful effects of ultra violet radiation, however the concentration applied in real life conditions is usually less, which provides inadequate protection,” Dr Hacker said.

“Currently the most common way to assist people to determine how long they can safely stay in the sun after sunscreen application is time-based on the two hour reapply recommendation.”

“However, what we are seeing is despite doing their best to stay sun safe and sunburn-free, people get either the concentration or the timing wrong resulting in a damaging dose of ultraviolet radiation.”

Dr Hacker will lead a pilot study looking at the usability of a newly developed wearable UV indicator that takes away the guesswork in how much sunscreen to apply and when to reapply by changing colour to warn wearers their sunscreen is no longer effective.

“As part of our study we are looking for Brisbane-based volunteers to test a patch before we undertake a larger trial to determine if it can reduce the incidence of sunburn,” Dr Hacker said.

“Participants will be asked to test the patch for a 7-day period and attend two focus groups sessions at the start and end of the study”

Dr Hacker said UV radiation or sunlight exposure was the main environmental risk factor for skin cancer.

“What we know is that sunburn rates are high, especially among younger people, with more than 72 per cent of Queenslanders aged 18-24 admitting to getting sunburnt,” she said.

“The sun smart messages are getting through to Queenslanders but the concern is that high rates of sunburn are caused because people are unaware when dangerous UV levels have been reached.

“This device seeks to give real-time information that can help change unhealthy sun exposure habits.”

Suncorp Stadium’s Ground Manager Malcolm Caddies is a melanoma survivor who has spent his life working outdoors and playing football, cricket and golf. Now 48 he was vigilant with annual skin checks but was not told when a melanoma was removed in 2008.

“I found a lump under my arm pit in 2014 and it turned out the melanoma I was unaware of had metastasized into my lymph nodes,” said Mr Caddies who has become a spokesperson for Melanoma Patients Australia which provides free support to people impacted by melanoma.

“I was lucky because the PA Hospital found the early pathology, removed the lymph nodes and put me on a clinical trial with two new drugs.

“I have been clear for two years now but I would love to see something like this UV-sensitive patch come on the market for my children and other young people. Focusing on sun safety is critically important to reducing the risk of melanoma.”

You can participate in this research if you are 18-30 years old, have an outdoor lifestyle, use sunscreen regularly, own a Smartphone (iPhone or android) and live in Queensland, Australia.

To take part in the study, email or phone 3138 9674.

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