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Wearable UV-sensitive stickers take guesswork out of knowing when to reapply sunscreen
By Jessica Hinchliffe at ABC News Brisbane
Could a sticker on your hand be the key to reducing sunburn each summer in Australia? The new wearable UV indicator is undergoing testing at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane.
It is UV sensitive and changes colour when the time comes to reapply sun protection, taking the guesswork out of how often you should apply sunscreen.
Dr Elke Hacker from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation said the pilot study would test the usability of the patches.
"Usually we put on a lot less sunscreen than we should which provides inadequate protection," she told 612 ABC Brisbane's Spencer Howson.
Dr Hacker said the sticker must be covered in a thin film of the sunscreen."The sticker has dyes in it that are sensitive to UV light and they change colour when the sticker deteriorates in the sun," she said.
"That tells the person that the thin film of sunscreen is no longer blocking UV and that it's time to reapply."
Making a difference to future skin cancer rates
Dr Hacker said the stickers could play a role in preventing skin cancer.
"Two in three Australians will have a skin cancer cut out before they turn 70.
"We have a huge battle with skin cancer on our hands and every sunburn increases your rate of skin cancer. "Applying sunscreen at a better rate and a better concentration ... really does make a big difference now to our future skin cancer rates."
There are currently several companies around the world trying to create similar stickers. The QUT team is working with a young engineering group in Canada to try and come up with the perfect patch.
"The patches work in and out of the water, but for us here in Australia we want to make sure they work in saltwater," Dr Hacker said.
The team will also be studying the behaviour changes of people wearing the stickers to see if they improve their sun protection behaviour.
"It's a novel approach. You don't need to get your phone out, you just need to look down and see the colour change," Dr Hacker said.
She said she believed many sunscreen brands would be interested in the stickers once they satisfied safety standards.
"We envisage in the future that when you buy your sunscreen bottle it will have several of the patches on the label that you can peel off and use," Dr Hacker said.
"This device seeks to give real-time information that can help change unhealthy sun exposure habits." The team is encouraging people under 30 to try the stickers for a week between now and December.
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