New SunSmart campaign warns UV exposure ‘adds up'

Sunday 15 November, 2015

Data reveals the surprising activities with highest sunburn

A powerful new SunSmart campaign unveiled today warns Victorians that it’s not just tanners who are at risk of skin cancer, as new data shows more adults get sunburned during day-to-day activities around the home than at the iconic summer beach setting.

Data from the 2013–14 National Sun Survey shows over that summer weekends, 50% of Australian adults were sunburnt doing activities around the home, such as gardening and chores, along with other passive recreation activities such as reading or having a BBQ.

The figure dwarfs the 29% of adults who reported getting sunburnt during activities at the beach, lake or pool; and the 21% sunburnt while playing sport or taking part in other active recreation.

The results coincide with the launch of the ‘UV. It all adds up’ campaign, which highlights the importance of protecting your skin outdoors this summer and that when it comes to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, ‘it all adds up’ and can result in skin cancer.

Filmed here in Victoria, the campaign shows how UV damage keeps adding up every time a person spends time unprotected in the sun. In a shift away from the iconic summer beach scene, the advertisement follows a man taking his dog for a walk, working outdoors and hosting a backyard barbeque. By failing to protect his skin, the man allows UV damage to ‘add up’ – with dire consequences.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said the sunburn data demonstrates that people are spending more time exposed to UV than they think.

“I think people will be surprised by these results. ‘Incidental’ UV exposure is catching people out.  It may not occur to people that sun protection is just as important whether you are in the backyard, lying in the park or hanging out at the beach,” Mr Harper said.

Incidental UV damage also shows up in Victorian tanning figures – just 13% of adults had attempted a suntan over summer, but 61% of adults reported having tanned skin.

“After decades of sun protection messaging targeted to the bronzed Aussie, there is high awareness of the health risks associated with tanning. However, with more people getting sunburnt during day-to-day activities (like mowing the lawn or socialising with friends) than by the water, it’s clear that tackling this trend of incidental UV damage is our next challenge,” Mr Harper said.

“Your skin is like a memory bank, it remembers all the time outdoors unprotected – all the sunburns, tans and solarium visits. This is particularly important throughout summer when UV rays hit extreme levels. The damage all adds up and increases your long-term risk of skin cancer.”

Today also marks the beginning of National Skin Cancer Action Week (15–21 November), a joint initiative between Australia’s Cancer Councils and the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

Australasian College of Dermatologists President Chris 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,” Dr Baker said.

“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 see your doctor as soon as possible.”

Victorians are encouraged to check the sun protection times each day to find out when the UV levels are high enough to damage their skin. 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.

The sun protection times are available for locations across Australia via the SunSmart app or at bom.gov.au

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