Major sunburn under the age of 17 doubles your risk of skin cancer

Daily care should be taken to protect your skin from skin cancer during peak hours from 9am-4pm. Although the UV index in Queensland is on average lower in winter, the effects are still not absent. The adage of hats, sun-cream and long sleeves still applies.
First published
Last updated
September 12, 2022

Skin cancer Brisbane

Yes, sunburn happens in winter too

Skin cancers represent a very significant proportion of all patients we see at the Mater Hospital.

If caught in a late-stage, these lesions can cause quite devastating impacts and do need urgent care with a plastic surgeon or dermatologist if appropriate.


There is a common misconception that a sun-burn won’t occur during winter. Yes, UV indices are lower across the board but they are not negligible.

Dr Andrew Hadj - Plastic Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Andrew Hadj

Plastic surgeon Brisbane

It is well known that 1 or 2 significant or major sunburns under the age of 17 (red flare, with peeling skin sore for 5-7 days) double your risk of skin cancers, including melanoma. Unfortunately, chronic sun exposure amplifies this risk over time and we see skin cancers presenting earlier and earlier – some patients even in their early 20’s. 


Having worked in Europe and spent many years in the southern states, I am astonished by the aggressiveness of skin cancers in young people in Queensland.

Dr Andrew Hadj - Plastic Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Andrew Hadj

Plastic surgeon Brisbane

The most common skin cancer is the basal cell carcinoma which represents 75% of all skin cancers we see. It is a locally aggressive, slow growing tumour of the skin that if left untreated can cause significant issues. 20% of skin cancers we see are squamous cell carcinomas and around 5% are melanomas.

UV radiation Queensland

Daily skin care, all year round

The human skin has a defense mechanism against the damaging effects of UV radiation: it’s called pigmentation (melanin). But subsequent excessive sun exposure (UV A and B radiation) invariably leads to cancer formation.

Many Caucasian Queenslanders unfortunately have the least-adaptive skin type (Fitzpatrick scales 1-2) that is both most impacted by UV radiation and are at the highest risk.

Dr Andrew Hadj - Plastic Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Andrew Hadj

Plastic surgeon Brisbane

You may think that the risks are only present during summer. But we know that even with a lower UV index, exposure to the sun in winter still causes an effect. That is why we recommend wearing hats and long sleeves during winter, and using sun-cream during peak hours between 9 am and 4 pm. 

The best cosmetic surgery results are those that you don’t see
Icon location

Plastic Surgery Queensland
Suite 2.01
Mater Private Clinic
550 Stanley Street
South Brisbane QLD 4101

Icon location

Plastic surgery Queensland
Gold Coast
109 W. Burleigh Road
Burleigh Waters QLD 4220

Skin cancer surgery Brisbane

I have been diagnosed with skin cancer. Now what?

Skin cancers require surgical excision. The excision needs to be slightly larger than the tumour to ensure a lower risk of recurrence. The basic idea is to remove the cancer with a small margin to make sure the tumour has been completely removed.

If you are concerned and want to learn more about the different types of skin cancer, treatment options and recovery after skin cancer surgery, please visit my dedicated skin cancer web page.

Skin cancer Queensland

Queensland, sunshine state, skin cancer state

Sadly, Queensland’s skin cancer rates are the highest in Australia. Along with New Zealand, Queensland has the highest rates of melanoma in the world. Our tropical climate increases the risk of sunburn and the UV radiation levels are high enough every day of the year. 


It’s a misconception that you can’t get sun damage on windy, cloudy or cool days. Sun damage is caused by UV radiation. So an overcast day can have similar UV levels to a warm sunny day.

Dr Andrew Hadj - Plastic Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Andrew Hadj

Plastic surgeon Brisbane

The UV index in Queensland is on average lower in winter but it doesn’t mean there is no danger for sun damage. Check the UV index on your favourite weather app or download the SunSmart app. Typically, daily care should be taken to protect your skin during peak hours from 9am-4pm. Hats, sunscreen and long sleeves. Even if you have heard it all before, it’s good to repeat the recommendations, especially if you are new to Queensland or when explaining this to your children.

Where do you operate?

I consult from my private rooms at Mater Private Clinic and I operate as a plastic surgeon at many private hospitals in Brisbane, Queensland. I can see Gold Coast patients from my private rooms at John Flynn Medical Centre and I operate at
Dr Andrew Hadj - The plastic surgeon blog

About Dr Andrew Hadj, Plastic surgeon Brisbane

Plastic surgery is the ultimate expression of art and science

Is there any difference between a plastic and cosmetic surgeon

Finding the right surgeon for cosmetic procedures can be a daunting experience if you don’t know what to look for.

Dr Andrew Hadj | Hand Surgeon, Skin Cancer and Cosmetic Surgery