Due to the climate crisis, the number of hours of sunshine in Germany is increasing, which attracts many people outside – but the danger from UV radiation is also increasing. “The year 2022 was marked by temperature and sunshine records all over Germany,” said the State Secretary of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Christian Kühn, at the start of a campaign on UV protection. This also increases the risk of UV-related health damage such as skin cancer. The federal, state and local governments must also take precautions in this area to protect people, he explained.

The Ministry of the Environment and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) therefore want to promote the construction of shaded areas in public places and in day-care centers. More hours of sunshine means more ultraviolet radiation. According to the BfS, this is so high in energy that it damages the genetic material – without people noticing it. If there is a lot of damage to the genetic material, damaged cells can become cancer cells.

“Dramatic Numbers”

The President of the BfS, Inge Paulini, was concerned about the increasing number of skin cancers in Germany. “In Germany, around 300,000 people are currently ill every year. The number of cases has more than doubled since 2000,” she said. “4,000 people die every year as a result. Those are dramatic numbers.” According to the BfS, sunburn increases the risk of developing dangerous black skin cancer by 100 percent.

National goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from FC Bayern Munich, a prominent supporter of the campaign, was also affected by skin cancer on his face. “It was a terrible diagnosis. It involved stressful operations. That’s why it’s so important to me that everyone protects themselves,” said the footballer in a message.

UV protection only in a quarter of the communities

According to a Forsa survey commissioned by the BfS and the Ministry, protection against ultraviolet radiation – UV radiation for short – is not yet sufficiently present in the municipalities. More than half of the mayors in Germany considered targeted UV protection to be important for the population. However, only 25 percent of the cities and municipalities stated that they had implemented UV protection such as sun sails or tree planting in the past few years. In a large part of the communities, no such solutions have been implemented. Measures tended to be taken less frequently in smaller communities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants than in larger ones, the survey said.

In addition to the construction of shaded areas, the so-called UV index must also be made known according to the BfS and the Ministry of the Environment. This provides information on how strong the sun is shining and what protective measures are recommended. From a guideline value of three, people and especially children should already protect themselves, writes the BfS. So use sunscreen, put on sunglasses and better look for the shade at lunchtime, advises the office. The UV index scale goes up to eleven, which indicates extreme health risks.