SunSmart Victoria’s new hard-hitting campaign is calling on Victorians not to be complacent when it comes to sun protection, as experts claim we must stay focused on addressing the risks associated with UV radiation across the state.
SunSmart Victoria acknowledges the positive progress in skin cancer prevention in Victoria, following insights from the 2022 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia™) reporting a remarkable 87% of respondents agreed that if they regularly protect themselves from the sun, they can avoid skin cancer.1 This is testament to the great progress we have made with our skin cancer prevention programs and campaigns across this state.
However, the research also shows that only one in two Victorians were using sun protection as part of their daily routine during summer (50%) and it is often the everyday activities people do, that leave them exposed to UV radiation.1 This is demonstrated in the survey which revealed over one third of recent sunburns occurred when people were undertaking everyday activities like walking, gardening, and playing with the kids (36%) and nearly one third of sunburns occurring at home or a friend’s house (29%).1
Head of SunSmart Victoria, Emma Glassenbury said while it is fantastic to see the high level of understanding of the connection between using sun protection and reducing your risk of skin cancer, ongoing work needs to be done to ensure sun protection is part of everyone’s daily routine.
“We’ve made great and significant strides in Victoria in terms of reducing the burden of skin cancer, particularly in younger age groups, but we are concerned some population groups are not heeding the sun protection message and suffering the consequences. That’s why this new campaign is addressing complacency head on and will speak to parts of our most at risk population groups including men who are twice as likely to die from melanoma and those in regional areas who are diagnosed at 44% more than those in metropolitan areas,” said Ms Glassenbury.
"We live in a beautiful state which we want to go out and enjoy, but we need to do this being conscious of the extreme levels of UV that puts us at risk. Our data shows that it is often everyday outdoor activities where people fail to use sun protection, exposing their skin to the sun's harmful UV radiation,” said Ms Glassenbury.
UV radiation emitted by the sun can’t be seen or felt. In Victoria's summer months, the UV will consistently be at extreme levels, meaning it can cause damage to unprotected skin in a matter of minutes.
“We must all remember repeated exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can cause skin cancer, including the deadliest form, melanoma, which can spread from the skin to vital organs like the brain, lungs and liver,” said Ms Glassenbury.
To remind Victorians of the importance of sun protection habits over summer, SunSmart has launched Victoria’s ‘Don’t Let Cancer In’ campaign, supported by the Victorian Department of Health.
Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas, said the personal impact of skin cancer on Victorians and their families can be devastating and supports SunSmart Victoria’s mission to increase sun protection behaviours to save lives.
"This is an important campaign for Victoria, as we know skin cancer is preventable. We want to see families across the state using sun protection every time they head outdoors when the UV index is 3 or above,” Minister Thomas said.
“Skin cancer can happen to anyone. The best way to stay safe from harmful UV waves is to plan ahead: stay indoors on extreme UV days and seek shade where you can, remember your sunscreen, and cover up with loose clothing and a hat,” Minister Thomas said.
Victorian mother of two, Karen Trafford, is a melanoma survivor. Karen was diagnosed with melanoma, which spread from a mole on her back to lymph nodes across her body. Karen had many rounds of surgery to remove 29 lymph nodes and consequently developed lymphedema in her right arm.
“After they had removed the mole, they started talking to me about how much extra tissue they would need to remove and that I would need to go to hospital for more treatment. I couldn’t really believe it.”
“It wasn’t until I was in the Peter MacCallum Cancer centre, with dye running through my veins and having these large scanners whizzing around me, that the seriousness of what was happening really sunk in,” Ms Trafford said.
If Karen’s cancer had progressed to next stage, it could have spread to other organs, meaning her treatment and outcome could have been very different.
“I often used to think, I am only going to hang the washing out, I don’t need to put sunscreen on, or do anything for short amounts of time. But you do. My doctor told me how UV radiation can build up over time and would cause serious damage.
“I wish that all those moments I spent outside I had covered up to block some of this from getting into my body,” said Ms Trafford.
SunSmart is reminding all Victorians, when the index hits 3, cover up from UV. If you’re doing things like walking the dog or gardening, check the UV and cover up your skin.
“Skin cancer is almost entirely preventable with good sun protection. Cover your skin by wearing a hat, clothing, and sunglasses. Apply sunscreen to any parts of skin you can’t cover with clothing and enjoy shady areas outdoors to give you extra coverage,” Ms Glassenbury said.
For more information, visit www.sunsmart.com.au.
1. Social Research Centre. (2022). 2022 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia ™) - Analytical Report. Melbourne, Victoria.