SunSmart program

SunSmart’s mission is to reduce skin cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality through a targeted prevention and early detection program.

Jointly funded by Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) since 1988, the SunSmart program leads the world in skin cancer prevention.

Today SunSmart is a multi-faceted program recognised for providing leadership and innovation in ultraviolet radiation (UV) protection. Programs operate in each state and territory of Australia by respective Cancer Councils, all using common principals but tailored to jurisdictional priorities. The sun protection message has expanded to Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide!

Internationally, Cancer Council Victoria has been designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborative Centre for Ultraviolet Radiation since 2004. Supporting SunSmart at Cancer Council Victoria is the Prevention Division, the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, the Cancer Epidemiology Centre and the Cancer Information and Support Service. 

The SunSmart objectives for 2016–19 are to:

  1. Improve skin cancer prevention awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in priority populations
  2. Support priority populations to detect skin cancers earlier
  3. Advocate for measures that aim to reduce the health and economic burdens of skin cancer.

History

Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation first funded SunSmart in 1988 in Victoria.

30 years of commitment and partnerships with VicHealth, government, key partners and community agencies has seen huge changes in social norms and health including:

  • A proven track record in preventing cancer and saving lives – preventing more than 103,000 skin cancers in Victoria between 1988 and 2003; resulting in more than 1,000 deaths being averted.
  • While melanoma incidence in Victoria continues to rise, there are now falling incidence rates in men and women younger than 40 years, consistent with a positive effect of the SunSmart program on behaviour change.
  • In contrast to the pre-SunSmart ‘baby boomers’, the number of basal and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer treatments among those aged under 45 years is also decreasing relative to population growth.
  • SunSmart is extremely cost effective with a $3.20 net saving for every dollar spent.
  • Victoria was one of the first states in Australia to legislate solariums in 2008 and more recently, ban solariums entirely.

To find out more, go to Cancer Council Victoria's web page on evaluation and behavioural research in skin cancer.

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