Why does our slack attitude to sunburn remain unchanged?

22 November 2017 | Liz King

Cancer Council Sun protection

We all know how vital sun protection is in preventing skin cancer – but new statistics show that an alarming number of adults are still getting sunburnt.  

The latest insight to come out of the Cancer Council National Sun Protection Survey, shows that 17 percent of adults, equivalent to 881,000 people across NSW, are getting sunburnt on any given summer weekend.

These people are putting themselves at risk of skin cancer, affirming we are clearly still a sunburnt country.

When you take into consideration that UV radiation is responsible for at least 95 per cent of all skin cancers in Australia, our complacency needs to be challenged. Cancer Council’s message is simple, when it comes to skin cancer, prevention works!  If we reduce our exposure to UV we can reduce our risk of skin cancer.

The best way to reduce our UV exposure is to practice all 5 forms of sun protection. Our motto remains the same: slipping on a shirt that protects your skin from the sun, slopping on sunscreen to all exposed skin, slapping on a broad-brimmed hat, seeking out shade whenever you can, especially in the middle of the day, and sliding on sunglasses.


National Skin Cancer Action Week

In light of the findings, the Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are joining together this National Skin Cancer Action Week (19 – 25 November) as a timely reminder regarding how to best protect our skin.

While it seems that some sun protection behaviours have gotten worse over the past few years, fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Our research also shows there has been a noticeable increase in the use of sunscreen nationally, from 37 percent in 2013/14 to 42 percent in 2016/17.

Though this is great to see, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of educating people about the importance of combining all five sun protection measures.

With this in mind, experts are increasingly worried about the high number of people who solely rely on slopping on sunscreen and expecting to be protected all day long. It’s important to remember that while sunscreen is a great tool to help protect our skin, it isn’t a suit of armour: it is just one part of our protective gear.

Data released last year shows that a whopping 85 per cent of us don’t apply sunscreen correctly. Sunscreen doesn’t block out UV radiation, it only filters it, and can be washed and wiped off.  We often don’t use enough, which is why using other forms of sun protection is so important.

Wearing covering clothing and a broad-brimmed hat are two of the simplest and most effective ways to protect your skin, and can reduce our reliance on sunscreen alone.


The #SunSmartGeneration

The theme for this year’s National Skin Cancer Action Week is ‘Join the #SunSmart Generation’. We often see parents protecting their children with rashies, hats, sunscreen and shade – while not protecting themselves. Therefore it is important for parents to remember that their own sun protection is also vital.

Skin cancer is our national cancer: two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. It is important to remember that it’s never too late to protect your skin from further damage. We want to see more adults setting a good example and joining their children in being SunSmart.


What you and your family can do

While the children of today are our most SunSmart generation ever, we are encouraging everyone, especially parents, to improve their sun protection efforts.

This is easily achievable by allowing sun protection to become part of your daily routine. For example, you could make sure you have a pre-packed bag to hand containing sunscreen, long-sleeved t-shirts and rashies as well as hats and sunglasses for all the family.

Learn more about how to best protect yourself from the sun and find resources for your workplace, school or childcare centre.

Do our quick quiz and find ways of reducing your cancer risk.