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How Getting Sunburn Helped me to Start a Side Project

Skin cancer cases are on rising. Yes, we use sunscreen, we wear hats and trying to avoid sunlight at midday but it still takes lives of 2/3 Australians and 1/5 Americans every year. What are we doing wrong?

That happened just after our arrival in West Oz. First time on Scarborough beach, crisp and fresh feel of the warm summer ocean. Pure, crystal indulgence for a guy born and raised in a permanent cold grasp of Moscow. Salty laughs, sparkling sunset and life is so easy. Until tomorrow comes.

“I need to call someone I guess…” — Julia said, “No honey, don’t bother yourself, by the way, we haven’t got that Medicare yet… it will cost us a fortune” — was my moaned stiffened response. “Just put that sour cream (we called it “smetana” in Russian) on my shoulders. Grandma used to say that’s the better treatment for that crushing pain they could even afford back in USSR…”

The funny story until I read that 5 severe sunburns during the lifetime increase chances to acquire skin cancer by 50%. Then I’ve learned that UV Index in Perth that day was extremely high — 13 point, four times more than a safe level. I was 29 years old, graduate from university as a mathematician, immigrated to Australia and still heard about UV Index for the first time in my life. What a hell?

The truth is even sunscreens do a great job to protect your tender skin from the sun it can’t tell you when, how and why to apply a sunblock and more importantly — to reapply it. It’s just a plastic bottle, by the way, it shouldn’t be decently smart.** What we miss as human beings is a sense of unique “Ultraviolet radiation pattern” for the place we live in.** It changes through the year, depends from tons of factors but could be qualitatively predicted and mastered. It can’t be seen and feel until we got a severe sunburn thought. So costly, deadly price. But hopefully, we have meteorologists, software developers, phones and watches to make that pattern more visible for us.

Long story short — sunscreen is not enough. To be really protected from the sun and mitigate a risk of skin cancer you have to increase your sun safety awareness and do not play shortcuts with your health. My outcome from the “sour cream” story became a small side project I’ve launched to help people to stay sunburn-free. Luckily I’ve never got a sunburn since then.


Funny to say, now I realised my most terrible fear is to be diagnosed with skin cancer one day… Like being a Facebook developer and have no friends, huh?

Alex Ershov, Founder of OpenUV