One in two Aussie sunburns occur during everyday activity

Sunday, 15 November 2015

New Cancer Council research has found that half of weekend sunburns occur while Australians are going about day-to-day activities, with the home replacing the iconic summer beach scene as a sunburn hotspot.

Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are joining forces this National Skin Cancer Action Week (15-21 November) to remind Australians that when it comes to damage from UV radiation, ‘it all adds up’, whether by accident or attempting to tan, and it increases the risk of skin damage and cancer.

Results from Cancer Council’s National Sun Survey*, released today (15/11) show that over summer weekends, 50 per cent of adult sunburn occurs during everyday activities such as gardening and chores around the house, along with passive recreation activities such as reading, enjoying a picnic in the park or having a BBQ.

In response to these statistics, Cancer Council Western Australia, with funding support from the Department of Health and Healthway, is airing the first year of the “UV. It all adds up.” campaign, targeting Western Australians aged 18 – 45 years.

Cancer Council SunSmart Manager Mark Strickland said the campaign will run across WA from the beginning of December and aims to increase the extent to which Western Australians use sun protection when outside in strong UV for more than a few minutes.      

“This campaign provides an important reminder that overexposure to UV radiation can occur regardless of the type of outdoor activity or the setting. It’s not just at the beach where sun exposure can be overdone. All skin damage from UV radiation contributes to our risk of skin cancer,” Mr Strickland said.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Public Health Committee, Craig Sinclair, said he thinks people will be surprised by the new Sun Survey results.

“The 50% figure dwarfs the 29 per cent of adults sunburnt during activities at the beach, lake or pool, as well as the 21 per cent sunburnt playing sport or taking part in other active recreation.

 “These ‘incidental’ sunburns are catching people out. It may not occur to people that sun protection is just as important whether you are gardening in the backyard, out for a bike ride or hanging out at the beach.

“After decades of sun protection messages targeting the bronzed Aussie, just 11 per cent of adults are actively trying to get a tan. However, 64 per cent of adults report having tanned skin, which shows that most ultraviolet (UV) damage is unintentional. Tackling this trend of incidental UV exposure is our next big challenge.”

Australasian College of Dermatologists’ President, Associate Professor Chris Baker, said skin is like a ‘memory bank’.

 “It remembers all the time outdoors unprotected – all the sunburns, tans and solarium visits,” Associate Professor Baker said.

“Throughout summer, when UV rays hit levels of 3 or above, the skin will be damaged fast if it is not protected. This damage all adds up and increases your long-term risk of skin cancer.”

Associate Professor Baker said skin cancer was by far the most common cancer in Australia, with dermatologists, surgeons and GP’s treating more than 2,000 skin cancers every day.

“The good news about skin cancer is that it can be prevented and, if detected early, can also be successfully treated.

“It’s important to get to know your skin and what looks normal for you. If you notice any changes in size, shape or colour of an existing spot, or the development of a new spot, you should get it checked by a doctor or your dermatologist as soon as possible.”

Mr Sinclair said a combination of sun protection steps was the key to preventing skin cancer.

“Make sure you check the sun protection times each day to find out when the UV levels are 3 or above. During these times: slip on clothing; slop on SPF30 or higher, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen; slap on a broad-brimmed hat; seek shade; and slide on sunglasses.”

Sun protection times are available for locations across Australia via Cancer Council’s SunSmart app or at bom.gov.au/uv


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