Encouraging Australians to protect their skin is an ongoing challenge.
Australians could be unknowingly increasing their skin cancer risk, with new data released by Cancer Council earlier this year showing that 40 per cent of Australians are still confused about which weather factors cause sunburn. The study also shows that fewer than one in 10 Australians understand that sun protection is required when UV levels are three or above.
The Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Centre gathers every year to discusss trategies to improve Australians’ use of sun protection.
Heather Walker, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s National Skin Cancer Committee said the latest National Sun Protection Survey results showed a clear gap in Australians’ knowledge.
In summer 2016-17, 24 per cent of Australian adults surveyed incorrectly believed that sunburn risk was related to temperature, while 23 per cent incorrectly cited conditions such as cloud cover, wind or humidity.
“It’s important for us to reinforce the message that it’s Ultraviolet Radiation that is the major cause of skin cancer – and that UV can’t be seen or felt. It’s a particularly important message this time of year as we head into Christmas break. In Autumn, temperatures in some parts of the country are cooling, but UV levels right across Australia are still high enough to cause serious sunburn and the skin damage that leads to cancer.”
Professor David Whiteman, convenor of the Sunscreen Summit and head of the Cancer Control group at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said that despite years of public education, encouraging Australians to protect their skin was an ongoing challenge.
“These findings show that very few Australians know when to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays,” he said.
“This is clearly a concern as it’s likely that Australians are relying on other factors, like the temperature or clouds, to determine when they need to slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.
“There is overwhelming evidence that, if used correctly, sunscreen prevents skin cancer – yet at the moment many Australians don’t even really understand when it’s required, and many are neglecting to use it altogether. We also know from previous research that 85 per cent of Australians don’t apply it correctly.”
Cancer Council’s SunSmart app provides local UV alerts and sun protection times and can be downloaded free on the App Store or Google Play.
When UV levels are three or above, Cancer Council recommends:
- Slip on protective clothing
- Slop on SPF30 or higher, broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen
- Slap on a broadbrim hat
- Seek shade
- Slide on sunglasses
The Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Research Centre is a joint collaboration of The University of Queensland and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.