Clare Oliver's legacy 10 years on: solarium use low but internet sites still providing platform for illegal practice

Wednesday 13 September, 2017

On the 10th anniversary of the death of anti-solarium campaigner Clare Oliver, Cancer Council Victoria and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre are calling on Gumtree Australia to stop helping people trying to cash in on illegal solariums.

Clare captured the attention of Australians in 2007 when she went public with her cancer journey, and urged people to stop using solariums. Speaking from her hospital bed she asked people to “choose life, choose to be fair”. She was just 26 when she passed away.

Peter Mac Consultant Medical Oncologist Professor Grant McArthur said Clare had left behind a powerful legacy.

“Clare was a remarkable young woman who spent the final weeks of her life campaigning against solariums and trying to help Australians understand the dangers of tanning,” said Prof McArthur, who is also Head of Peter Mac’s Molecular Oncology Laboratory and Lorenzo Galli Chair in Melanoma and Skin Cancers, University of Melbourne.

“Today we want to acknowledge that fight by paying respect to Clare and her loved ones, who our thoughts are with today. In the past 10 years, we’ve been able to make amazing strides in restricting solarium use, and much of that has stemmed from people hearing Clare’s story.”

One such achievement has been the ban on commercial solariums in almost all Australian states and territories. [1] New data from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey shows although 11% of adults had ever used a solarium, less than 1% had used a solarium in the previous 12 months. [2]

The ban has been effective in reducing access to solariums, but Cancer Council Victoria’s SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said online websites such as Gumtree Australia continued to provide a platform for individuals who are willing to pay for solarium services.

Last month Cancer Council Victoria and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre wrote to Gumtree Australia asking the company to remove all solarium advertising from its website, but have received no response to date.

“While availability has reduced, advertisements continue to appear on Gumtree from people seeking solarium services within private homes,” Ms Walker said.

“It’s disappointing to see individuals providing a platform for a practice that is not only illegal, but has been responsible for the deaths of an estimated 43 Australians each year. Today, as we remember Clare’s fight, it seems especially senseless for any business to support people cashing in on these cancer-causing machines.”

While the commercial ban will reduce the impact of skin cancer for the next generation, those who previously used solariums will be at increased risk of skin cancer.

“Anyone who has ever used a solarium needs to keep a close eye on their skin for any new or changing spots,” Ms Walker said.

“To anyone considering exposing their skin to a solarium or tanning in the sun, we urge you to remember Clare and remind you of her message – no tan is worth dying for.”

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Clare’s legacy over the past 10 years

  • 2007:
    - Battling end-stage melanoma, Melbourne 26-year-old Clare Oliver shares her story with a warning to others to avoid solariums and tanning. Weeks later, she passes away.
  • 2008:
    - Victorian Government introduces regulations for solarium industry that require a licence for any person or business that possesses, sells or maintains tanning units.
    - Study estimates each year in Australia, 281 new melanoma cases, 43 melanoma-related deaths, and 2,572 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma were attributable to solarium use.
  • 2009:
    - The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) raises the classification of solariums to Group 1 carcinogen, alongside tobacco and asbestos.
    - Victorian Government adopts Australian standard limiting the use of sunbeds to exclude people aged under 18 or with very fair skin (skin type I) and enforces the display of health warnings.
  • 2010:
    - Victorian licence conditions updated to include proof-of-age records and skin check training for solarium operators.
  • 2011:
    - Cancer Council Victoria research finds 80% Melbourne solarium operators aren’t complying with regulations and are instead allowing under 18s and people with skin type 1 to use beds.
  • 2012:
    - In February NSW Government announces plans for a commercial solarium ban, followed by South Australian Government in October and Tasmanian Government in November.
    - In Victoria, leading health organisations including Cancer Council Victoria, AMA, Skin & Cancer Foundation Inc., Australasian College of Dermatologists campaign for a ban, which the Victorian Government announces in December.
  • 2013:
    - QLD Government also announces plans for a commercial solarium ban.
  • 2015:
    - NSW, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, ACT and QLD introduce a ban on commercial solariums from 1 January. In April, the West Australian Government announces it will follow suit.
  • 2016:
    - Commercial solariums banned in WA from 1 January. First successful prosecution of illegal solarium operations in Victoria, with a fine issued for $68,500.


1 With the exception of the Northern Territory where there are no commercial solarium operations in place.
2 The National Sun Protection Survey is conducted every three to four years by Cancer Council. The 2016–17 survey collected responses from 3,614 adults aged 18–69 years on topics including solariums, tanning, sun protection behaviours and sunburn on summer weekend.

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