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Men’s attitudes towards sun protection is putting lives at risk from skin cancer

4th February 2014 - Cancer prevention

NSW men over the age of 50 are three times as likely to die from melanoma as women of similar age¹, as new data on men’s attitudes towards sun protection and sun damage have been released. 

New figures² reveal that over half of men in NSW over the age of 50 are not aware of the high risk associated with skin cancer among their age group, and more than a quarter (26%) believe it’s already too late to take action to reduce their skin cancer risk. 

This World Cancer Day, Cancer Council NSW, the Cancer Institute of NSW and the Melanoma Institute Australia are joining forces to debunk the myths associated with skin cancer amongst men over 50. 

While the latest research shows that almost half (48%) of men in this age-group are not worried about developing skin cancer, Associate Professor David Smith, spokesperson and men’s health expert for Cancer Council NSW, said with that actually two out of three Australian men will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. 

“Skin cancer is Australia’s national cancer. However, despite decades of sun protection advice, men are still putting their lives in danger by not acting on the fact that too much sun, or not keeping watch for any changes to your skin, can be deadly,” says Professor Smith. 

“Our recent survey of men’s behaviours and attitudes highlighted that 58 per cent of men aged 50 and over believe they do enough to protect their skin, when in fact men in general are slacking on the basic sun protection measures. 

“Previous evidence shows that 75 per cent of men in NSW are failing to wear broad-brimmed hats, 70 per cent aren’t using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15+, and almost half aren’t wearing sunglasses when going out in the sun³.” 

Commenting on these findings, Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW said, “The evidence shows that by protecting ourselves from harmful UV we can prevent 95 per cent of melanomas and 99 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancers. Yet, what we have seen over the past ten years is a significant rise in both the numbers of men diagnosed with melanoma, and the number of men dying from this largely preventable disease. 

“While some men may think the damage has already been done by their mid-fifties, it’s important for all of us to remember that we need to continue to reduce our risks of skin cancer. Protecting our skin should be a part of our everyday lives. It’s not just when we spend a day at the beach that we’re at risk: that 30 minutes washing the car, the hour catching up on the gardening or the couple of hours at the footy – it all adds up. 

“The message to men is simple: seek shade during high UV periods, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30+, wear a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing, and if you notice any changes to your skin, see your GP straight away.” 

Visit cancercouncil.com.au for more information or contact Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

-ENDS-

 Notes to Editor 

¹Tracey E et al. Cancer in NSW: Incidence and Mortality Report 2008. Sydney, NSW: Cancer Institute NSW; 2010. 

²  Newspoll survey, conducted online, over the period 6-12 December 2013, among a sample of 500 men aged 50+ and living in NSW. 

³Cancer Council NSW research figures come from unpublished data prepared by Cancer Council Victoria for CCNSW. (Volkov A, Dobbinson S, 2010-11 National Sun Protection Survey: Report 2. Australians’ sun protective behaviours and sunburn incidence on summer weekends, 2010–11 and comparison with 2003–04 and 2006-07. An unpublished report prepared for National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia. Final Report October 2011.) 

Newspoll Survey Men 50+ Survey:

  • A Survey was conducted online, over the period 6-12 December 2013, among a sample of 500 men aged 50+ and living in NSW
  • 33 per cent men believe they have done irreversible damage to their skin
  • 56 per cent of men are not aware of the high risk associated with skin cancer amongst their age demographic
  • 52 of men worry about developing skin cancer in the future
  • 56 per cent of men get their skin checked for spots that may be cancer by their GP
  • 72 per cent of men believe that if they protect themselves  from the sun they can avoid melanoma  and other skin cancers
  • 14 per cent of men didn’t think that sun damage was built up over time 
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