New research: Melbourne youth still risking skin cancer for a tan

Wednesday 6 February, 2013

New Cancer Council research released today shows Australian adults and adolescents are less interested in getting a suntan and fewer are being sunburnt.

In Victoria, the proportion of adults desiring a tan also fell. The proportion of Victorian adults desiring a tan fell from 40% in 2003-4 and 36% in 2006-7, to 31% in 2010-11.

Yet Melbourne adolescents are putting themselves at an increased risk of skin cancer for the sake of a tan and not using adequate sun protection on summer weekends.

51% of Melbourne 12 to 17 year olds like to get a suntan and 14% are getting sunburnt at the weekend.

SunSmart Manager, Jen Makin, reports: "Although young people know how to protect themselves and have good intentions, they are just not following it through.

Our research shows Melbourne adolescents have poor sun protective behaviours and consequently a high prevalence of sunburn with 1 in 7 (or 58,200) Melbourne adolescents being sun burnt on summer weekends."

Any sunburn represents excessive exposure to UV radiation and therefore an increase in skin cancer risk, warns Ms Makin.

"The incidence of sunburn amongst this group is unsurprising given that just 22% of adolescents reported they had protected all the areas of their skin with sunscreen, hats or clothing when they were outdoors."

Other statistics

  • More than half of Melbourne adolescents (51%) aged 12 to 17 years reported that they like to get a suntan and 41% of adolescents agreed that a suntanned person looks more healthy.
  • Despite these pro-tanning attitudes, few adolescents thought a tan was actually healthy. Only 13% of adolescents agreed that a suntanned person is more healthy.
  • 28% of Melbourne adolescents actually attempted to get a suntan over summer.
  • The most commonly reported sun protective behaviours used on the weekend by adolescents was wearing ¾ length or longer leg-cover (36%) and sunscreen (35%).
  • 56% of Melbourne adolescents perceived their personal risk of skin cancer as low when considering their lifestyle.

About the research
These data for Melbourne adolescents and adults are from the Cancer Council' National Sun Protection Survey conducted in summer 2010-11. 396 adolescents (12-17 years) and 1352 adults (18-69 years) resident in Melbourne were interviewed by telephone on Monday and Tuesday evenings about their outdoor activities, sun protection and sunburn on the previous weekend.

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