SunSmart’s mission is to reduce skin cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality through a targeted prevention and early detection program.
Jointly funded by Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Government, the SunSmart program leads the world in skin cancer prevention.
Today SunSmart is a multi-faceted program recognised for providing leadership and innovation in ultraviolet radiation (UV) protection. Programs operate in each state and territory of Australia by respective Cancer Councils, all using common principles but tailored to jurisdictional priorities. The sun protection message has expanded to Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide!
Internationally, Cancer Council Victoria has been designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborative Centre for Ultraviolet Radiation since 2004. Supporting SunSmart at Cancer Council Victoria is the Prevention Division, the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, the Cancer Epidemiology Centre and the Cancer Information and Support Service.
The SunSmart objectives for 2019–23 are to:
- Improve and monitor skin cancer prevention awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.
- Support priority populations to detect skin cancers earlier.
- Advocate for strategies that aim to reduce the health and economic burdens of skin cancer.
Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation first funded SunSmart in 1988 in Victoria. In 2019, the Victorian Government took over funding of the SunSmart program from VicHealth.
30 years of commitment and partnerships with VicHealth, government, key partners and community agencies has seen huge changes in social norms and health including:
- A proven track record in preventing cancer and saving lives – it is estimated to have prevented more than 43,000 skin cancers and 1,400 deaths from the disease in Victoria between 1988 and 2011.
- While melanoma incidence in Victoria continues to rise, there are now stabilising or falling incidence rates in men and women younger than 60 years, consistent with a positive effect of the SunSmart program on behaviour change.
- In contrast to the pre-SunSmart ‘baby boomers’, the number of basal and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer treatments among those aged under 45 years is also decreasing relative to population growth.
- SunSmart is extremely cost effective with a $2.20 return for every dollar spent in the Victorian program.
- Victoria was one of the first states in Australia to legislate solariums in 2008 and more recently, ban commercial solariums entirely.
To find out more, go to Cancer Council Victoria's web page on evaluation and behavioural research in skin cancer.