Victorians ignore skin cancer risk, as state-wide campaign warns 'all UV damage adds up'

Tuesday 15 November, 2016

A new study has found Victorians know the dangers of sunburn and tanning, but half of us still aren’t using sun protection every day in summer – despite data showing almost 100,000 skin cancers were treated in a single year.

The study found 78% of Victorian adults surveyed agreed spending more time in the sun without sun protection would increase their skin cancer risk, even if they didn’t get a tan or burn.

However, only 50% agreed sun protection was an important part of their daily routine in summer.

SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said Victorians could not afford to let sun protection slip off the agenda – especially in summer when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is strongest.

“While most of us know the SunSmart message by heart, too many of us fail to actually put this knowledge into practice.

“We cannot afford to be complacent. On a fine summer’s day in Melbourne, skin can burn in as little as 11 minutes. Over time, these small portions of UV damage add up to increase our risk of skin cancer.”

New data from the Victorian Cancer Registry shows 2,712 new melanoma diagnoses were made in 2015. Melanoma also resulted in most of the 516 deaths from skin cancer that year.

However, one-third of deaths from common skin cancer were a result of common skin cancers known as basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). While the prevalence of these skin cancers makes them too numerous to record via the Registry, Medicare records indicate 99,592 of these common skin cancers were treated in Victoria in one year.

Despite the prevalence of the disease, SunSmart Ambassador Catherine Andrews said most skin cancers were preventable.

“Skin cancer is by far the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Victoria – but it doesn’t have to be.

“If we slip on clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses, we can protect ourselves from UV damage.

“Like brushing your teeth or wearing a seatbelt in the car, sun protection should become a habit.”

SunSmart will remind Victorians of the importance of sun protection this summer with the UV. It all adds up campaign, which will air across the state from Sunday night.

The campaign shows we spend more time in the sun than we think, and how all these unprotected moments allow UV damage to add up, resulting in skin cancer.

Victorians can make sure they are protected when necessary by checking their local sun protection times each day. The sun protection times forecast when UV rays are predicted to reach damaging levels of 3 or higher.

During sun protection times, SunSmart recommends people use a combination of:

  • Clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • Broad-brimmed hat that shades the face, ears and neck
  • Shade, and
  • Sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard for UV protection (AS:1067).

The free SunSmart app provides sun protection times and current UV levels. Sun protection times can also be found at the Bureau of Meteorology website and live UV levels are also available from ARPANSA .

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Survey results

A total of 1471 Victorian adults were surveyed over the 2015-16 summer about their sun protection attitudes and behaviours.

Attitudes towards sun protection among Victorian adults





The more time I spend in the sun without sun protection will increase my risk of skin cancer, even if I don’t get a tan or burn




Sun protection is an important part of my daily routine in summer




Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer

Victorian Cancer Registry data


New melanoma diagnoses

Treatments for other skins cancers*

Deaths from melanoma

Deaths from other skin cancers

Skin cancer in Victoria in 2015






TOTAL number of deaths from skin cancer in Victoria in 2015


* treatments estimated from Medicare claims data for “first treatment episode for a primary basal or squamous cell carcinoma" (2015)

About the campaign

Developed by SunSmart Victoria, the UV. It all adds up campaign will air for the second year on Victorian televisions this Sunday night. A second television commercial will also air for the first time across digital screens.

The campaign includes television, print, radio and online advertisements, and is funded by the Victorian State Government as part of a $5 million commitment to deliver SunSmart public education campaigns.