Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world for both males and females. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. In Victoria, more than 40,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. In 2013, 460 Victorians died from skin cancer – more than the state road toll. The total cost to the state health system is enormous – over $500 million just to treat non-melanoma skin cancer in 2010. This makes skin cancer the most costly burden on the health system of all cancers. Tragically, skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is both the major cause of skin cancer and the best natural source of vitamin D. SunSmart aims to minimise the human cost of skin cancer in Victoria by taking a leadership role to promote a balance between the benefits and harms of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure and the links with vitamin D.
SunSmart works with primary and secondary schools, early childhood centres, workplaces, health professionals, local government and sporting clubs and other organisations to promote a healthy approach to UV exposure. This intensive community-level work is underpinned by state-wide media campaigns that communicate the SunSmart message and change broader social norms. One of the program’s most successful media campaigns was launched by SunSmart and Cancer Council Victoria in 1981 featuring Sid Seagull. The iconic and internationally recognised Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign was successful in encouraging people to reduce sun exposure and protect themselves against an increased risk of skin cancer. Sid had Australians slipping on long sleeved clothing, slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat.
Today, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and Cancer Council Victoria jointly fund SunSmart. In 2004 we were appointed a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for UV Radiation.