Slip, slop, slack leaves Victorians red-faced

Monday 21 November, 2016


New Cancer Council research shows fewer Victorians are using hats to protect themselves from the sun and, as a result, are getting sunburnt on their face, head, nose or ears.

Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey reveals that just 38% of Victorian adults wear a hat when exposed to UV rays on summer weekends, down from 44% in 2003.

SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said it was concerning more than 1.5 million Victorian adults were not wearing a hat to protect themselves in the sun on summer weekends.

“The research shows that the face, head, nose, or ears are the most common places on the body that Australians get sunburnt, alongside the arms and hands,” Ms Walker said.

“So there’s no doubt that by neglecting to slap on a broad-brim hat and cover their skin, Victorians are increasing their cancer risk.”

Ms Walker said there was good news, with the survey showing that sunscreen use had increased. With just 1 in 4 Victorian adults using three or more sun protection measures during summer, however, Ms Walker said it was important to realise that sunscreen was not the only step needed.

“Sunscreen is not a suit of armour. It should be used in combination with clothing, a hat, sunglasses and shade, and be re-applied every two hours,” she said.

In light of the findings, Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists have come together during National Skin Cancer Action week (20–26 November) to remind Australians to be SunSmart by following Cancer Council’s five important steps to sun protection: Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

Australasian College of Dermatologists' President Associate Professor Chris Baker said that dermatologists regularly treated skin cancers that could have been easily prevented through proper sun protection.

“Dermatologists see a lot of skin cancers on the face, ears, head and neck,” Associate Professor Baker said.

“These skin cancers are particularly concerning because they can arise quickly and are more difficult to treat. Surgery is the most common treatment, with visible scarring often unavoidable. Other treatments include topical therapy for some early skin cancers through to radiotherapy and chemotherapy for more advanced cancers. Sadly, we don’t always get them in time.”

He also urged Australians to keep a close eye on their skin, know what normal spots they have and to keep a watch for any changes.

“It’s important to remember that skin cancer can be prevented and, if detected early, can often be successfully treated. If you notice any changes in size, shape or colour of an existing spot, or the development of a new spot, you should get it checked as soon as possible."


About the National Sun Protection Survey

The National Sun Protection Survey was conducted via phone over the summer of 2013–14. A total of 6,349 Australians were interviewed. Conducted every three to four years by Cancer Council, the survey provides a perspective on changing trends in Australians’ sun protection behaviours and rates of sunburn over the past decade.

Sun protection used/worn during Vic respondent’s main activity outdoors in peak UVR hours on the weekend (adjusted prevalence, based on models adjusting for weekend weather conditions) 2003-04 % Victorian adults 2013-14 % Victorian adults
Head wear (hat, cap or visor) 44 38
Sunscreen 31 37
¾ length or long-sleeved top 21 24
Was mostly in the shade 27 28
Three or more sun protective behaviours NA 26


Distribution of sunburn on the body, incidence of parts of sunburn on weekend among sunburnt Australian adults (% prevalence) 2014 adults 2014 sunburnt male 2014 sunburnt females
Face, head, nose or ear 41 48 32
Arms or hands 41 43 38
Legs, knees or feet 12 13 10
Chest, stomach or back (trunk) 18 14 24
Neck 27 32 20
Shoulders 27 19 40


About National Skin Cancer Action Week

Each year Cancer Council Australia and the Australasian College of Dermatologists come together for National Skin Cancer Action Week.

With two in three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70, the week is a time when we remind Australians of the importance of sun protection and early skin cancer detection.

More than 2000 people in Australia die from skin cancer each year and Cancer Council estimates that Australia spends more than $1 billion per year treating skin cancer, with costs increasing substantially over the past few years.

Yet most skin cancers can be prevented by the use of good sun protection.

National Skin Cancer Action Week is a great time to remind people to slip on sun-protective clothing, slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

The theme of this year is “My #SunSmart5”. Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are encouraging Australians to use all five forms of sun protection and share photos of themselves being SunSmart on social media.

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