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Melanoma continues to become more common in Finland – young people in particular do not consider the sun to be a health risk

Adequate protection from the sun’s UV radiation would prevent four out of five cases of melanoma. However, even good information about the health hazards of the sun does not guarantee adequate protection. Young people in particular may find it difficult to take long-term health risks into account.

The UV index describing the intensity of the sun’s UV radiation can reach the limit of protection, that is, a value of 3 throughout Finland at this time of the year. Therefore, you should now pay attention to protecting your skin and eyes from the sun’s UV radiation. Snow reflects UV radiation especially onto the face in Northern Finland in spring.

In Southern Finland, the UV index rises above the limit of protection on sunny days from mid-April to September. The limit is exceeded in Northern Finland on average from May to early August.
The sun‘s UV radiation is at its strongest in Finland on the week preceding Midsummer and a few weeks after that. The UV index in the southern parts of the country may then exceed the limit of strong radiation, i.e. the value of 6.

“Summers are likely to warm up in Finland as well, due to climate change. Heat cycles are expected to occur more often in the future, so people in Finland may be tempted to wear lighter clothing and become more exposed to UV radiation,” says Kaisa Lakkala, Research Scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
According to the latest studies, the severity of heat waves and the amount of solar radiation may also increase in summer.

Melanoma continues to become more common in Finland

Exposing the skin to large amounts of UV radiation and getting sun burns increases the risk of skin cancer. According to the statistics of the Finnish Cancer Registry, 1028 men and 811 women became ill with melanoma in 2023. About 94% of people diagnosed with melanoma will still be alive after five years.

“The incidence of melanoma has increased rapidly in the 2000s, by just under 5% per year. According to estimates, melanoma is expected to affect nearly 3,000 people in Finland every year in the future,” says Karri Seppä from the Cancer Research Institute of the Cancer Registry of Finland.

Adequate protection against UV radiation would prevent four out of five cases of melanoma.

Building shady areas helps with sun protection

People often think that sun protection is the responsibility of the individual, although society can also contribute to the protection of citizens. “Shade is an effective means of reducing UV exposure, as UV radiation in the shade can be up to 50% lower than under a clear sky,” says Anne Höytö, Senior Specialist at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

Municipalities and private operators can promote sun protection by building shady areas in existing and new outdoor areas. It is particularly important to increase shade in areas favoured by children and young people, such as daycare centres and school yards, playgrounds and sports grounds, although outdoor areas for the older population should not be forgotten. Shade allows people of different ages to spend time outdoors and exercise safely and comfortably even on hot summer days. Höytö advises that “shade can be created with plantings, canopies, pavilions, canvases and parasols. The wider the shaded area, the better the protection”.

Combining protection measures provides the best protection

It is important to protect the skin of people of all ages. However, it is especially important to protect children and young people from too much sun, as their skin protection mechanisms are still developing. The most important risk factors for skin cancer are repeated skin burns, especially in childhood and adolescence, as well as high exposure of the skin to UV radiation during one’s lifetime. In addition to parents, it is important for early childhood education and school professionals to take sun protection into account as part of everyday life.

“Sun protection is not just a matter of beach days, but should be taken into consideration in all everyday activities, from outdoor recreation to gardening and outdoor play to camping. The same basic guidelines apply to the skin protection of children and adults: shade, clothing and sunscreen. The skin should primarily be protected with shade and clothing. For extra protection, a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 should be chosen. In addition, outdoor activities should be scheduled for the morning, late afternoon or evening when UV radiation is weaker,” says Heidi Löflund-Kuusela, Manager, Health Promotion, cancer organisations.

Young people do not consider the sun to be a special health risk

Even good knowledge of the health hazards of the sun does not always guarantee adequate protection. This is made clear in the Master’s Thesis of Laura Mikkola, Master of Health Sciences, for the University of Eastern Finland, which investigates the protection of young Finns aged 16–20 from the sun. The material consists of 11 interviews with young people.

According to the results, young people protected themselves from the sun mainly with sunscreen, headgear and being in the shade. They protected themselves better when going out for a longer time or to the beach, during trips abroad and after skin burns. Sun protection was affected by attitudes and information, as well as factors related to time and place, social network and perceptions of skin burning, for example. It was difficult for young people to see skin cancer as a problem that concerns them because of their young age. Skin burning was not perceived as a specific health risk.

The respondents felt that sun protection can be promoted by talking more about the topic and by increasing young people’s knowledge of the harms of and protection from the sun through a variety of channels, including schools and social media.

Further information:

Finnish Meteorological Institute
Researcher Kaisa Lakkala, tel. +358 40 7476792,

UV index forecast in the online service of the Finnish Meteorological Institute at . UV index can also be checked from the mobile application of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK)
Senior Specialist Anne Höytö, tel. +358 975 988 305,

The Cancer Society of Finland
Research Manager Karri Seppä, tel. 050 441 8556
Manager, health promotion Heidi Löflund-Kuusela, tel. 050 438 8841
Communication Specialist Janne Huovila, tel. 050 363 6050