Ten years on: 'Bronzed Aussie' aspiration a thing of the past

Wednesday 21 January, 2015

New research prompts awareness campaign for final weeks of summer

New Cancer Council research shows Victorians prefer tanning much less than a decade ago but that sunburn rates are still too high.

Results from the Cancer Council’s latest National Sun Protection Survey (2013-14)i show improvements over the past 10 years in Victorians’ attitudes to tanning, showing only 32% of people like to get a suntan and 44% of people believe a suntanned person looks healthier. The figures show a significant shift in attitudes, with Victorians 33% less likely to desire a tan than they were last decade.

Cancer Council Victoria’s head of prevention, Craig Sinclair, said the tanning data is reassuring and shows the work promoting skin cancer prevention is paying off.

“We can now well and truly put to bed the notion that the ‘bronzed Aussie’ is something the typical Victorian aspires to, as the data clearly doesn’t support that,” Mr Sinclair said.

“The fact that attitudes to tanning are changing for the better shows we’ve come a long way over the past 10 years,” Mr Sinclair said. “Unfortunately, however, almost 600,000 Victorians are still getting sunburnt on the typical summer weekend.ii For this reason it’s vital we continue to have high profile media campaigns to remind Victorians of the importance of sun protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer and eye disease.”

In Victoria in 2013, 2,307 people were diagnosed with melanoma and 374 people died of the disease. A further 86 people died of other skin cancersiii, with more than 40,000 treatments for these skin cancers each year.

Health Minister, The Hon. Jill Hennessey at the launch of a new state-wide campaign announced today, said: “Melanoma can occur in any person at any age and is one of the most prevalent, yet largely preventable cancers affecting Victorians. We have hit the peak of summer and this campaign is an important reminder to Victorians to ensure they are adequately protected each and every day.”

The campaign features a television advertisement that tells the true story of Wes Bonny, a 26-year-young man who died of melanoma in March 2010. Wes wasn't trying to get a tan and did his best to protect himself from the sun but despite his efforts, he was diagnosed with melanoma when he was just 23 years old. The melanoma was removed, but it was already in his bloodstream and later spread to his brain.

Mr Sinclair said Wes’s story is a reminder of the need to be vigilant about sun protection.

“Like Wes, people may know they need to protect themselves from the sun, but may not be doing this properly,” Mr Sinclair said.

“Always check the times of day when sun protection is needed in the weather section of your daily newspaper or by downloading the free SunSmart app. During the daily sun protection times, make sure you slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, slop on SPF30 or higher broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen, slide on sunglasses and seek shade.”

SunSmart ambassador Catherine Andrews said: “It's so important for Victorians to be SunSmart. We all love spending time outdoors, playing sport and enjoying our beautiful beaches, but we need to be careful in the sun and make sure we regularly check any suspicious spots."

About the campaign
Developed by the Cancer Institute NSW, the SunSmart program first implemented the Wes Bonny story in Victoria for two consecutive summers (2011–2013). The campaign will run again in Victoria this summer, along with the Dark Side of Tanning advertisements, which highlight the dangers of tanning. The campaign includes television, print, radio and online advertisements, thanks to funding from the Victorian State Government. The television advertisements will be broadcast statewide from Sunday, 25 January through February.

i The Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey is completed every 3-4 years. In 2013-14, 1,269 Victorians aged 18-69 were interviewed about a range of issues including attitudes to tanning and sun protection behaviours.
iiThis estimate of the number of Victorians sunburnt is based on 15% of survey participants who reported they were sunburnt on the previous weekend and the ABS estimated population (18-69 years) figures for 2014.
iii Thursfield V, et.al. Cancer in Victoria: Statistics & Trends 2013. Cancer Council Victoria: Melbourne, Australia 2014

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