Melbourne mum's heartbreaking plea to parents: be SunSmart for life

Friday 28 September, 2018

Survey shows less than 40% of parents protect their skin in the sun

A powerful new campaign launching today highlights the personal cost of skin cancer in an effort to get parents to increase their SunSmart habits.

The campaign provides an insight into the devastating impact skin cancer can have on an individual and her family through the true story of Belinda Karlos. Belinda, a Melbourne mum who died in 2016 aged just 42, left behind her young daughter Ebony.

The campaign features Belinda speaking candidly about having end-stage melanoma, and her heartbreak knowing she won’t be able to see Ebony grow up. The campaign asks parents to be SunSmart for their children and their own health as a lifelong investment in skin cancer prevention.

Belinda’s brother Chris Trewin said his sister was a loving mum who had been passionate about encouraging people to use sun protection.

“Before Belinda’s diagnosis, skin cancer wasn’t anything any of us thought about. As Belinda says in the campaign, she hadn’t been vigilant about wearing a hat or putting on sunscreen growing up,” Chris said.

“Belinda shared her story because she wanted to save someone else’s life. We can’t get Belinda back, but we can continue telling her story to stop this happening to other families – and hopefully spare another child losing their parent to skin cancer.”

Belinda’s sister-in-law Caroline Fitzgerald said the family also wanted to make people more aware of the reality of skin cancer.

“We saw first-hand the impact melanoma can have. Belinda had multiple surgeries, T-Cell therapies, blood transfusions, immunotherapies and chemotherapy over a four-year-period,” Caroline said.

“On top of this is the emotional toll for Belinda, Ebony and for our family. It’s important people see this side to melanoma, because it’s not as simple as getting something cut out and being done with it. It’s a devastating disease that affects your whole family.”

In new research conducted by Cancer Council Victoria, 88% of parents surveyed said their child is often or always protected from the sun when outdoors in summer. However, just 37% of those parents reported regularly protecting their own skin.

SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said Belinda’s story reminded parents of a powerful incentive to take better care of their skin – their children.

“Parents do a great job making sure their children are SunSmart, but they’re not always as careful when it comes to their own skin,” Ms Walker said.

“We see this all the time at the playground and beach – parents taking care to slap on a hat and slop sunscreen on their young ones, but leaving their own skin unprotected.

“Good sun protection can reduce the risk of skin cancer at every age, whether you are five, 15 or 50. So it’s crucial parents prioritise their own sun safety too.

“Belinda was a courageous advocate for skin cancer prevention and we hope all Victorians hear her message – being SunSmart is for life.”

Ms Walker said parents could also be powerful role models for establishing SunSmart behaviours in their children from a young age.

“Belinda’s story is a powerful reminder that we need to be SunSmart not only for our own health, but also for our children, and those we love.”

The campaign will air online and as a community service announcement on free-to-air television and radio from Sunday 7 October.

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About the data

The 2018 Summer Sun Protection Survey was a representative cross-sectional survey of Victorian adults conducted online and via telephone in January-February 2018. In total, 538 Victorians aged 18 and over completed the survey online or by telephone in January-February 2018 to provide a representative sample of all Victorians. These results summarise sun protection practices of all 100 Victorian adults aged 25-54 years old who reported having a child aged between the age of 1 and 12 years.

Usual sun protection practices reported by parents of young children (aged 1-12 years old) Total
Parent (self-report): How often is all of your skin protected from the sun?  
Never, rarely or sometimes 63%
Often or always 37%
Child (parent-report): How often is all of their skin protected from the sun?  
Never, rarely or sometimes 12%
Often or always 88%

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