Media Room

4.8 million people in NSW were sunburnt last summer

2nd December 2019 - Cancer prevention

Cancer Council NSW today released data showing that 62% of people across the state were sunburnt one or more times during last summer, and is urging people to protect their skin this year to help reduce the 4,900 people expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer.

Liz King, Cancer Council NSW’s Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, said the findings remind us that, as we enter summer, we need to be aware of the dangers of UV and the fact that UV reaches extreme levels across NSW at this time of year.

“Sunburn and tanning are signs that skin cells are in trauma, it means damage has been done. Even though sunburn will eventually fade, it causes long term damage and it is this damage that can lead to melanoma developing. Even mild sunburn can increase your risk of developing skin cancer, and the more often you are burnt and the more severe the sunburn is, the higher your risk will be.”

The study also showed that one in eight people never use sun protection. Ms King said, “This is very alarming. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia, and 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Despite this, we’re seeing that not enough people are taking care of their skin, particularly in summer when UV is at its most dangerous.”

 “The good news is, skin cancer is highly preventable, and this makes our message simple –protect your skin and you will reduce your risk. The best way to protect your skin this summer is to use all five forms of sun protection: Slip. Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide. It’s as easy as slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen, slapping on a hat, seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses,” Ms King continued.

“Let’s make sun protection part of our daily routine, like brushing our teeth and wearing a seatbelt, and not wait for the signs of sunburn or tanning before thinking about protecting our skin,” Ms King concluded.

– ENDS –

Media contact: Eden Patrick, Cancer Council NSW, T: (02) 9334 1903; M: 0421 517 245;

Notes to editor

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia
    • 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime
  • Skin cancer is highly preventable
    • At least 95% of all skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV.
    • This means nearly all skin cancers can be prevented!
    • The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin. This means regularly using all five forms of sun protection: SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, SEEK shade and SLIDE on sunglasses.
    • Use a combination of sun protection measures – never rely on just one.
  • It is UV that causes skin damage, not temperature, meaning you can be exposed to damaging levels of UV on cool and cloudy days.
    • In NSW, UV levels are high enough to damage unprotected skin at least 10 months of the year.
    • If you work outdoors, your increased exposure to UV puts you at much greater risk of skin cancer. Outdoor workers need to protect their skin all year round.
  • Skin cancer is Australia’s most costly cancer, costing the Australian government $1 billion every year
  • Cancer Council NSW recommends getting to know your own skin, including skin not normally exposed to the sun, and speak to a doctor if you notice any change in shape, colour or size of a spot, or the development of a new spot.
Cancer prevention