Bronzed Aussies don’t link tanning with skin cancer

Wednesday 27 October, 2021

Two in five adults report they like to get a suntan

As Victorians embrace new freedoms with COVID restrictions easing, venturing outside for sport and picnics, SunSmart has issued a timely reminder that there’s no such thing as a safe tan.

A national Cancer Council study assessing sun protection attitudes and behaviours of Australian adults showed an alarming number of adults still prefer a bronzed body.

The 2019 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia™), examined the sun protection practices of 2,154 Australian adults over the summer months.i

Two in five adults (40%) reported they like to get a suntan, and 62% of respondents reported having tanned skin, with sun exposure being the most common method for achieving a suntan.

Head of SunSmart and Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Heather Walker, said it was concerning to see so many adults still seeking a suntan.

“Australians need to be reminded that there is no such thing as a safe tan. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, more melanin is produced causing the skin to darken. This is what we know as a ‘tan’. A tan is a sign that skin has been damaged by UV radiation,” Ms Walker said.

The results weren’t all grim. The research also showed that the majority of respondents (84%) protected their skin to avoid sunburn, and three in four (75%) respondents believed they could avoid skin cancer by regularly protecting themselves. Ms Walker said the data provides evidence that the sun protection messaging is resonating with Australians.

“We know our SunSmart campaigns are having an impact and we’ve seen a remarkable drop in skin cancer rates over the years. However, there is more work to be done – particularly in combatting the myths around tanning. People need to understand that tanning also increases your risk of skin cancer.

Alfred Hospital Victorian Melanoma Service Director Associate Professor, Victoria Mar, reiterated the dangers involved in tanning.

“Sun damage accumulates over time, so even if you’re seeking a tan but not burning, the risks will be heightened and for some people this will result in skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important for Australians to use adequate sun protection and avoid tanning,” Associate Prof Mar said.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. In Victoria in 2019, 2,841 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma and 270 lost their lives to the disease.

In Victoria, sun protection is advised when UV levels are 3 or higher. SunSmart recommends people:

  • 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 the face, ears and neck
  • Seek Shade and
  • Slide on sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard for UV protection

For more information visit:

- ENDS -

i 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, including 959 adults aged 25–54. All results have been weighted to be as representative as possible of the Australian population.

SunSmart program

Our world leading SunSmart program is dedicated to reducing skin cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality.

Meet the team

Meet the SunSmart team working tirelessly behind the scenes.

Media & communications

We provide trustworthy, credible and authoritative commentary on sun protection and skin cancer.

Contact us

Got a question? There are a number of ways to get in touch with SunSmart.