Victorians urged to be SunSmart over holidays as study exposes lack of sun protection habits

Monday 17 December, 2018

A study looking at sun protection behaviours in Melbourne’s parks, streets and swimming areas has found an abysmally low use of clothing, hats and shade over summer weekends.

The findings have prompted a warning from Cancer Council Victoria’s SunSmart program about the danger of UV damage, with experts urging Victorians to use a combination of measures to protect their skin this summer.

The Sun Observation Study monitored teenagers’ and adults’ use of covering clothing, hats, sunglasses and shade in public outdoor settings. Observations took place over six summer weekends in Melbourne, from January to February 2018.

The study found low protection from clothing cover at pools and beaches (5% people observed had arms covered and 8% had legs covered), parks and gardens (15% arms and 39% legs) and in outdoor streets and cafes (18% and 49%).

About 1 in 3 people wore a hat to parks and gardens or pools and beaches, however most of these hats did not offer enough protection to the face, neck and ears.

Shade was also not well used. Just 11% of people sought or created their own shade at the pool or beach, 14% at parks and gardens, and 31% at streets and cafés.

Sunglasses were more popular across the settings – as many as 50% of people observed slid on sunglasses at the pool or beach, and around 1 in 3 people protected their eyes across other locations.

The findings come as SunSmart prepares to launch its summer campaign UV. It all adds up , which warns UV rays can damage unprotected skin no matter where you are.

SunSmart manager Heather Walker said the campaign message was one Victorians clearly need to hear.

“The only one with a red nose this season should be Rudolph. But this study shows us that we really need to step up our sun protection efforts if we want to keep our skin safe,” Ms Walker said.

“The low use of protective clothing reflected in this observation study is really concerning. Of course, we don’t expect people to rug up in sweltering weather, but it’s important to choose loose, cool clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Leaving skin exposed by going shirtless, for example, is simply putting yourself at risk of a sunburn, and down the line, skin cancer.

“This is an especially important message as Victorians prepare for their holiday break. Whether you’re heading down to the beach, out doing the shopping, grabbing a coffee or simply relaxing in the backyard, at this time of year you’ll need sun protection each and every day.”

While the study was unable to collect information on sunscreen use, Ms Walker said it was a timely reminder to use all five sun protection steps in combination.

“Sunscreen is an excellent form of protection and absolutely essential but for our extreme UV climate you need the best level of protection – clothing, a hat, shade, sunglasses and sunscreen together,” Ms Walker said.

The Sun Observation Study found adults 50 years or older were more likely to engage sun protection behaviours than the teenagers and younger adults observed. For example, more adults aged 50 or older wore covering leg clothing in parks and gardens (51% vs 28% of teenagers) and outdoor streets and cafes (63% vs 32% of teenagers).

Ms Walker said the UV. It all adds up campaign would help remind Victorians of all ages of the importance of sun protection.

“The sun’s UV radiation is strong enough at this time of year to cause a sunburn in just 11 minutes. Although the signs will fade, the damage remains,” Ms Walker said.

“The more time you spend unprotected in the sun, the more UV damage will build up, increasing your risk of skin cancer, including the deadliest form – melanoma.”

In 2017, 2,993 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma and 270 lost their lives to the disease. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in Victoria, with doctors treating more than 92,000 cases in a single year.

“Despite its prevalence, most skin cancer can be prevented by using good sun protection. Summer is the peak risk time for UV damage, so it’s absolutely critical Victorians protect their skin in five ways outdoors,” Ms Walker said.

SunSmart recommends checking local sun protection times on the free SunSmart app or Bureau of Meteorology app. During these times each day:

  • Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses

UV. It all adds up airs across TV, radio and online from 30 December, thanks to funding provided by the Victorian Government.

For more information visit


About the data

The Sun Observation Study reported on the sun protection behaviours of teenagers and adults in public, outdoor settings with observations by trained fieldworkers. Observations occurred during peak UV times (11am to 3pm) over six weekends from mid-January to February 2018.

Observations were conducted at venues in three different types of settings: parks and gardens (122 venues, 1979 individuals observed), pools and beaches (43 venues, 1180 individuals observed), and outdoor streets and cafes (84 venues, 2292 individuals observed).

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