Number of 10-19 year olds with severe sunburn more than doubles in 2020

Updated 3 Mar 2021.

Cancer Priority #1

We are urging the next WA Government to develop and fund a skin cancer prevention plan as new data reveals a record number of West Australian teenagers were treated at hospital emergency departments for severe sunburn during 2020.

Our Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said the data showed the urgency for the next WA government to give skin cancer the number one priority it deserves.

"In 2020, 102 WA children and teenagers aged between 10 and 19 years sought medical help for sunburn in emergency departments," Ms Ledger said.

"This is an increase of more than 130 per cent compared to 2014 when 44 WA children and teenagers presented to emergency.

"Teenagers are our greatest asset, they spend lots of time outdoors and there is not enough being done to help them be more SunSmart.

"The next WA Government must create an environment that support teenagers to be SunSmart; we need to see government supporting high schools to develop minimum SunSmart policies and standards across the state - especially when it comes to uniforms and timetabling outdoor activities, but we also need to see shade included as part of the planning requirements for all new public building and infrastructure projects including schools.

"The damage caused in the teenage years significantly increases the risks of skin cancer in later life."

Ms Ledger said on top of all of this next summer will be the last year the iconic SunSmart public education campaign plays on WA TV without a significant increase in funding.

"We need to see $2.2 million invested to continue the work of the last 40 years, so these worrying numbers don't continue to rise," she said.

"According to the figures from the Department of Health, the number of severe sunburn cases increased in every age group since 2014.

"Most presentations occur during December and January, when UV levels are extreme across WA. And these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. We know most people don't see their doctor or ED when they get sunburnt.

"This data shows that urgent action is needed to ensure West Australians are protected from the damaging UV radiation that is present in WA almost all year round.

"We can't be complacent; we need to see a coordinated and comprehensive approach to reducing over exposure to UV. With a $90 million price tag for skin cancer treatment, now is the time for action.

"We need all West Australians, especially our young people, to be SunSmart, creating these opportunities at school, home and in the community is easy with a comprehensive approach to preventing skin cancer.

"This data is a great reminder that the greatest risk factor for skin cancer is overexposure to UV and this is largely preventable by properly protecting our community from the sun."

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