Slip, Slop, Scrap your plan to tan this summer

Thursday 3 December, 2020

New data shows almost half of Aussies admit to having a suntan

With the first weekend in summer approaching, Cancer Council and SunSmart are reminding Victorians there’s no such thing as a safe tan with data showing adults are still tanning.

The 2019 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia™), examined the sun protection practices of 2,154 Australian adults last January and February. The survey found nearly one in two Aussies reported having a tan from sun exposure last summer (46%). Males were more likely to have tanned skin than females (51% compared to 42%).

Head of SunSmart, Heather Walker, said with summer upon us and Victorians spending more time outdoors it was concerning to see so many adults with a tan despite the well-known fact that tanning is dangerous.

“Even if your skin isn’t burning, a tan is a sign that your skin cells are in trauma and have been damaged by UV radiation. A tan develops as your skin produces more pigment trying to protect itself from the damaging UV.

“Skin cancer develops when skin cells are damaged and grow uncontrollably. The more you tan, the more that risk is heightened,” she said.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. In Victoria in 2019, over 2,800 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma and 270 lost their lives to the disease.

Ms Walker said many people don’t realise that it’s not just sunbaking that results in a tan. Often it’s the incidental UV exposure from day-to-day activities during summer that causes the damage that can lead to skin cancer.

“With the UV reaching extreme levels for much of the day in summer, just going for a quick walk to the shops or having a coffee outdoors unprotected can put people at risk. It can take as little as 11 minutes on days with extreme UV for the damage to be done,” she said.

Concerningly, the age groups who were most commonly tanned, were 45–69 year-olds (52%) followed by 25–44 year-olds (46%), groups that are likely to include parents.

“This summer we’re revisiting the Slip, Slop, Slap campaign of the 1980s to remind adults and parents that while much has changed in the last 40 years, the dangers of UV and tanning remain the same. It’s still the same sun and the need to protect yourselves and your families hasn’t changed,” Ms Walker said.

SunSmart recommends that Victorians protect their skin in five ways when the UV is 3 and above:

  • Slip on loose protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Slop on SPF30 (or higher), broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every two hours.
  • Slap on a broad-brim, bucket or legionnaire hat that shades the face, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade wherever possible outside.
  • Slide on close-fitting, wrap-around sunglasses that cover as much of the eye area as possible and meet the Australian Standard.

Learn how to protect yourself and your family this summer at

- ENDS -

About the survey: The 2019 Summer Sun Protection Survey was funded by Cancer Council Victoria and Cancer Council New South Wales and conducted through the Social Research Centre using Life in Australia™, a probability-based panel of adults recruited through random selected of landline and mobile numbers. Panel participants take part in regular surveys. 2,154 people completed the survey. All results have been weighted to be as representative as possible of the Australian population.

  Overall Gender Age group
Proportion of Australian adults with suntanned skin (%) n=2154 Male Female 18–24 25–44 45–69 70 or more
Tanned from sun exposure 46 51^  42* 39 46 52 36
Natural skin colour is tanned 14 15 14 18 13 12 20
Use fake tanning product 2 <1* 3^ 1 2 2 2
Not tanned / no answer 38 34* 41^ 42 39 34 42
Total % tanned 62 66 59 58 61 66 58
^ = significantly higher | * = significantly lower

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